Stylistic Analysis Of Annie Dillard’s Essay
Babies Are Not Always a Good Thing
Throughout human history, people have always looked forward to and celebrated the births of people, so much so that they have dedicated an entire branch of medicine that deals with it. While usually a nurse in the hospital is dealing with death and disease everyday, OB-gyn and maternity nurses get to help bring in new life everyday, multiple times a day. Though most people would love to work as a maternity nurse, and would be happy and excited to work with those miracles, it does start to become just a job sooner or later, where the joy just wears off, as is the case in Annie Dillard’s essay where she describes the routines that the nurses go through everyday. In the piece, she uses rhetorical devices to demonstrate a critical and cold attitude toward the treatment of babies by the nurses.
When Dillard describes the first scene in her essay, she uses a lot of imagery. In the first through third paragraphs, she describes the baby-washing station like one would expect a factory line to look and sound like. She says that they wash the newborns like dishes, with the nurses changing throughout eight hour shifts. This is one of the times when the author uses imagery in order to set the tone for the essay. By Dillard painting the image of a factory line as a baby-washing station, the reader can start to see that the tone for this essay is not a positive one; the babies are treated like objects. With this example of imagery, it is evident that the tone is cold and critical. Another example of imagery that supports the tone can be found on the second page. Lines 35-37 say that the nurse bundles him up and just sends him down the line, like one would in an assembly line. With these example of imagery, it is clear to the reader that the tone is cold and critical because normally, in the presence of a baby, a person would be happy and excited, here, the nurses are bored and do not even care about them anymore, they refer to them as objects, not even worthy of names.
Aside from imagery, Dillard also uses analogies to demonstrate her tone. One of the first examples of analogies can be found on the first page of the essay. On the first page, the nurse describes the baby’s head using an analogy, she compares his head with a cone-head/ dunce cap. Not only is this an analogy, but this is also satire because this is mean and judgemental, the nurse is drawing a mean comparison for the purpose of making fun of him. This mean and judgemental analogy really demonstrates that at this point, the nurses really do not care about the babies, and it shows that the tone in this essay is cold and critical. Another example of the use of analogies to set the tone can be found on the first page also. In the sixth paragraph, the narrator compares a clot to the baby. She compares the creation myth from the Quran, where Allah created life with a blood clot, with a newborn! An object that can disappear/ dissolve with TPA (a medicine/ solution that can dissolve blood clots non-invasively) is being compared to a baby, which can only disappear with the use of another human, which is murder. This analogy shows that at this point, the nurses really consider the babies as objects, which goes to show that the tone in this essay is cold and critical.
In summation, Annie Dillard’s tone and attitude in her essay is cold and critical. In order to set the tone, she uses two major rhetorical devices, and another mixed in among the two. She uses imagery and analogies, with some satire mixed in. She uses these devices in order to tell the readers that babies are not for everyone, and that people do get tired of them.
An Issue of Death and God in Ecclesiastes by Qohelet and Fecundity by Annie Dillard
The author of Ecclesiastes, Qohelet, wrestles with the purpose of our short-lived lives because, whatever investments humans may make, it does not satisfy the transience of life. Annie Dillard chapter, “Fecundity” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, grapples with her perceptions on life and death. Furthermore, she is confused as to why she even cares about death in the first place. Both Qohelet and Dillard acknowledge that every life ends in death yet, the manner in how they wrestle with human kind’s inevitable end leads to two different conclusions: one with God and one without. Thus, Qohelet finds hope, despite the brevity of life, while Dillard refuses to see that there can be any such thing. Dillard’s wrestling with death leads her to conclude that death is not the “curse” but, that our emotions are, while Qohelet also struggles with death, he comes to a different conclusion.
For Qohelet, it is not the emotions that are the “curse”, but rather it is sin and death. Qohelet does express an excess of emotions, as he too struggles with the elusiveness of life, illustrating his sentiments with the word hevel. Hevel’s meaning as Dr. Elaine Phillips writes, “is ‘vapor’ or ‘breath’… Every endeavor is like a breath; it is transitory – here and gone. ” Thereby, Qohelet does not discount emotions regarding the transience of life but much of what Qohelet is saying in Ecclesiastes is contemplating the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3, referencing Genesis 3:19, “…you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust and you will return to dust. ” Qohelet words are similar in Ecclesiastes 3:20. Qohelet understands that death is the result of disobedience, but he still battles to comprehend the transience of life.
For Dillard, humans are the “freaks. ” Humans are “freaks” because we value the life of people, unlike the rest of nature, as nature does not seem to care if we live or die. Therefore, there must be something wrong with us as she places Nature as the criteria that measures the value of human life. She writes, “…we are moral creatures, then, in an amoral world. ” Hence, completely ruling out any other source that could account for her concerns about death. Although, the transience of life disturbs Qohelet, he, unlike Dillard, is driven to compare human existence to the divine. In so doing, he finds the source of joy and hope in life given by God. Dillard wallows in despair when faced with death while Qohelet, knows that despite despair there is hope and joy given by God. Dillard’s deduction that humans are freaks, as nature does not care about the human existence it holds, leaves her reader with the dread that the world possess no hope. To Dillard, this is just the way the world works’ and humans must learn to cope with it. Qohelet, by contrast, understands that there is hope given to mankind given by God, in spite of facing the hevel of life, the end that is death, and the injustice that occurs in this world.
Qohelet is frustrated about the transience of life as anything that man pursues is fleeting. Our toil and hard work are only temporary just like the extent of our lives; here and then gone again. We shall not be remembered. Although Qohelet knows that our lives are but a puff of air, he states that despite this end, God gives enjoyment in life. Qohelet writes, “Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun. . . This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart”.
Hence, despite the transience of life, God gifts man with joy and gives satisfaction in his work. This is the hope that Qohelet offers in Ecclesiastes. Dillard asks us to search outside of God for a satisfactory answer to death but there is no hope to be found there. Qohelet does address the transience of life, but notices that God is the source of all joy and hope therefore, not all is lost. Therefore, mankind cannot be truly satisfied without God.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay – What Does It Mean to Write a Rhetorical Analysis
Annie Dillard in her essay, “Living like Weasels” states that weasels live a life of freedom compared to where a human lives a life of choice. She supports her claim by first sharing her experience with the encounter with a weasel, and then she compares humans to weasels saying that they should live wilder like weasels. Dillard’s purpose is to show that we should go after our dreams no matter the cost, in order to accomplish the dreams that one may have and that you don’t get deterred and give up from your dreams. She establishes a spiritual and transcendent tone for anyone in the world that is chasing a dream. Dillard creates multiple images contrasting the life of a weasel, and the life of a human. While she creates these images her diction, and metaphors stick out significantly.
One of the main contrasting images that Annie Dillard creates is the way a weasel lives there life and the way that a human being lives there life. The way that she says a weasel lives there life is wild while she says that a human lives a life of decision making. She states that humans live a life of choice because us humans have so many different decisions that we can make in our lifetime. What she means by this is that humans need to take note of the way that weasels live there life, and that a weasel lives a better life than a human. Humans can learn a lot of things by paying attention to the way that weasels live there life. Dillard uses the quote that says ” yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.” She uses this quote to say that humans are always going out and “attacking” the things that they want to do in life whereas a weasel cautiously approaches every situation.
Another key image where Dillard contrasts humans and weasels is in the quotes where she says “it covers two acres of bottomland near Tinker Creek with six inches of water and six thousand lily pads.” and “There’s a 55 mph highway at one end of the pond, and a nesting pair of wood ducks at the other.” Right of the back you can see from her quote where she talks about the lake and the “55 mph highway” that “two acres” is a human measurement, and that measurement is a precise one, and for the “55 mph highway” it is a human idea, and it is also a phrase that shows human decision making. This is contrasted by six thousand lily pads. It doesn’t seem realistic that she sat there and actually counted six thousand lily pads, and lily pads aren’t a scientific measurement. Also in the quote, she mentions “wood ducks” which isn’t human, and she doesn’t even mention a number she just states that there is “a nesting pair of wood ducks.”
Review of Living Like Weasels by Annie Dillard
Living Like Weasels is a fascinatingly beautiful story about an encounter between the writer and a wild weasel; an encounter that she claims is the first of its kind for her. While considering the weasel, the writer expounds on a number of ideas, especially those related to the concepts of mindless need and conscious choice. The writer seems to lament the fact that the weasel gets to live with a focus on the former while people tend to live with a focus on the latter, and she wishes she could live like the weasel, at least for a short time. However, what the writer misses is that her life is already surprisingly similar to that of the weasel, at least in terms of seeking out what feels necessary. It seems fairly clear from the text that the writer feels succumbing to the freedom of necessity and mindlessness exhibited by the weasel would be a benefit to herself and possibly anyone.
She talks about people being able to live any way they want, and that many people make choices about the ways they live. At the beginning of part six, the writer continues to praise the idea of grasping one’s necessity and never letting go, just like the weasel that latches onto the neck of its prey and does not let go, even in ultimate failure.
Interestingly, she seems to believe that this state is one that humans could rightly achieve, as if they could return to the wild and live without thought or awareness or conscious action. What she fails to acknowledge is that human consciousness and awareness are what separate mankind from animals, and shedding that awareness in favor of mindless necessity would not be freedom, but restriction. Instead, it seems the writer is championing a different sort of commitment to necessity.
Part six of the story is an exposition by the writer describing the action of a weasel as it exhibits its commitment to its necessity. However, that exposition is meant to explain the connection between the way that the animal stays committed to its need and the way a person should commit to his or her need. The need of the person may not be as instinctual or mindless as the need of the animal, but the commitment to that need is the similarity. The story shows that animals are committed to their instincts since they do not know any other behavior, which is mirrored against the idea that humans should be committed to the things that drive them, even those things that are not instinctual or natural.
An unyielding commitment to the thing that drives an individual is the only way an individual can relate to the animal that is totally committed to its instincts. If the writer meant to create this connection, which seems fairly clear, then it follows that the writer also meant to showcase her own feeling of mindless commitment to her craft. In that sense, the story is not just an exposition on how people need to release their hold on conscious living, but it is also an example of how one should live like a weasel.
The writer creates several parallels between the weasel and herself, even while also painting the image of many differences. Parallels include the sense of wildness that brought both the writer and the weasel to the same point in the same moment. The writer claims that she moved to Hollins Pond in order to remember, or learn, how to live, but it seems the writer is simply looking for a connection to nature that would allow her to follow her interest in writing about the natural world around her. This shows that she actually connects with the weasel in a way that she is championing in the story. Perhaps the most telling quote of the story comes at the end of part five. The writer says, “The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse.” This quote shows that the writer supports the idea of mindless commitment to the calling of an individual, and she explains this through the analogy of a weasel biting its victim’s neck. Some readers might misconstrue her promotion of that mindless commitment to a calling as a commitment to loosing conscious thought in favor of actual instinctual behavior.
In the writer’s mind, the weasel is not attacking when it bites onto the neck of its prey, but it is simply yielding to a single necessity and the freedom of a total commitment to that necessity. In that way, people need to commit to the thing that drives them without any thought of something else pulling focus from that commitment. One of the most intriguing elements of the story occurred when the writer described locking her eyes with the weasel and loosing herself in it for just a moment. The feeling the writer evoked was spot on for that situation or any other like it, and the idea of disconnecting from that moment and losing it forever is one that seems universal. Her description of the connection and its near immediate breaking shows a parallel between most people and how they deal with things that call them to action.
People might catch eyes with their calling and feel a fleeting instance of completeness in pursuit of that calling, but for most people, the connection breaks, the idea scampers back under the brush, and life continues on a conscious stream of decisions that deviate from the calling.
In this story, Annie Dillard does an excellent job of creating a connection between human callings, the desire to follow them, and the nature of animalistic behaviors and instincts. Her exposition attempts to show that she is outside the issue looking in toward her calling as a function of the connection with the weasel, but the writer is clearly following her calling with the same ferocity of the weasel.
Living Like Weasels Vs Transfiguration: Comparing Two Essays by Annie Dillard
In Annie Dillard’s essay, “Living Like Weasels”, she explains her first encounter with a weasel and what she gained from that experience. She begins with a story of how a man shot an eagle out of the sky and once he examined the eagle, “he found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat”(1). Dillard is showing how the weasel died by protecting one necessity, which is its life. She then moves to the place where she first “exchanged a long glance”(2) with a weasel while she was sitting on a tree trunk near Hollins Pond. She continues, “Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key…He disappeared. This was only last week, and already I don’t remember what shattered the enchantment”(2). The weasel disappeared following its instincts, “The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons”(2). Dillard is saying how an individual goes throughout their life being cautious while a weasel just lives by following its instincts. She wants to learn how to live that way, in the way of the weasel, “I would like to learn, or remember, how to live”(3). Her idea of doing this is to “stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse”(3). Dillard believes one should stop living so cautiously and instead live “yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity”(3).
In another one of Annie Dillard’s essays, “Transfiguration”, she also discusses about the way one should go about living. She begins this essay by going into great details about several moth corpses that she finds in a spiders web in her bathroom floor. She then quickly goes back to a time when she was camping alone. She explains how during that camping trip she read a novel that made her want to be a writer at the age of sixteen and then she adds, “I was hoping it would do it again”(111). One night while camping, she was reading by candlelight, “a moth flew into the candle, was caught, burnt dry, and held.”(112). She goes into great detail about the moth burning in the candle, “The wax rose in the moth’s body from her soaking abdomen to her thorax to the jagged hole where her head should be, and widened into flame, a saffron-yellow flame that robed her to the ground like any immolating monk. The moths head was fire.”(112). She then shows that she was telling that story to her students to show them what inspired her to be a writer, “I also told them they must go into life with broadax. But they had no idea what I was saying”(113). She was trying to show her students the struggle of maintaining inspiration. She uses the moth as a moment that can eventually turn significant and the flame as the inspiration. So when the moth turns into flame, it is no longer just a moth but something that shows inspiration.
Both of these essays show that Annie Dillard has certain ideas when it comes to the way to live ones life. She believes one should having meaning, inspiration and necessity. One shouldn’t live so cautiously but instead have significance and pointed will. She uses animals as symbols to show her way of thinking.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard: Religious and Theological Beliefs
In Annie Dillard’s book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, she references a diverse group of sources which include Albert Einstein, the Karan, and many philosophers, both with secular and sacred beliefs. One which was particularly intriguing was a quote of Jacques Ellul, a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, theologian, and Christian anarchist (Chastenet). Referred to as a “spiritual genius” (35), Dillard uses Ellul’s quote “Launch into the deep and you shall see” in order to explain how essential it is to pay attention to the meaning of every thought and action which occurs. She uses this source to concur that everything happens for a reason. Without paying attention or being present, one will miss so much of the underlying meaning of life which is given to those who ask questions. Rather than strolling mindlessly through life and simply going through the motions, be a part of something much bigger than oneself
At first glance through this book, it was hard to distinguish Dillard’s personal position regarding her religious and spiritual beliefs. Upon a second read, it became more clear that she had exposed this. Dillard grew up going to Sunday school in the Presbyterian church, and claims to have been a Christian since she was twenty years old (Cantwell). She has an almost romantic love for the church, viewing it less as a series of rules, and more of a body of believers. It is because of this that she threads a story of faith through all of her books. The structure of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is complex and multi-dimensional. It is, first of all, a narrative account of her wandering and reading life, of what she spends her days doing. It is at the same time a “meteorological journal of the mind,” a quote she uses from Thoreau. It is a supercharged and scientific account of the natural world, a “radiant” theodicy, a grave, outraged, outrageous inquiry into how it comes that a good creator has produced a world of cruelty and violence.
When seeing the world as it truly is by allowing “the muddy river to flow unheeded in the the dim channels of consciousness” (Dillard 35), one must “pay the pearl of great price”. This refers to how the world actually is when you stop to watch it while the ugliness and disparity in it are being revealed. Her suggestion is a seemingly paradoxical premise; seeing beyond sight. However, articulating her awareness guarantees that the moment itself will vanish. Her purpose of using this quote is to highlight that our self-consciousness not only divides us from our “creator”, but also from our fellow creatures. Ellul’s quote is frequently applied in sermons, which is no coincidence. While originally intended for Christian theology, it is in fact applicable to a far greater span which reaches to Buddhism and life in general.
Dillard does not seem to be biased against religion or theological beliefs of philosophers, and values all sides by using a fair amount of references from each perspective in order to diversify and add credibility to her work. Prior to researching, I was not sure where she stood in the realm of spirituality. However, after it has become clear that she promotes Christian theology, while still respecting and applying the views of other beliefs which overlap. This proves the continuity and similarity between those which are believed to be so opposite.
Analysis of Annie Dillard’s Memoir “An American Childhood”
Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood, is filled and adorned with innumerable instances of figurative language. Using an eloquent, articulate prose, Dillard describes in vivid language and excruciating detail the vast array of memories and experiences that make up her childhood. Each page of the novel contains literary devices presented in the form of figurative language that spring forth from the page and engulf the reader with superb examples of imagery that remain in their memory far beyond the moment of reading the text. In writing her memoir, Dillard uses her masterful command of the English language to convey her personal evocations using literary devices like allusion, symbolism, and simile to more effectively express her memories and to enrich the reader’s experience.
An American Childhood lacks a solid, continuous plot, and is presented as a series of anecdotes. These anecdotes are not presented as a day to day account of Dillard’s childhood, but rather have an impressionistic edge to them, with each anecdote playing an important role in the development of the characters and storyline. For example, the reader learns of Dillard’s experience with a fictional monster in her room that was, in reality, a shadow cast by light from a passing car. This event teaches Dillard that her imagination is a tool under her command which she can manipulate and command to create a world beyond the one she was living in. The reader is exposed to many other anecdotes such as her being chased by a driver, her time spent in a lakehouse on Lake Erie, and the time she crashed a car at a drag race. All of these memories continue to be important for Dillard because in each of them she can recall becoming more alert and aware of her own psyche and environment, aiding her development as an artist.
Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood, is filled and adorned with references to innumerable literary and 1950’s pop culture sources. Dillard starts off the prologue with a backstory that includes Benjamin Franklin having “already invented his stove in Philadelphia by 1753 and Thomas Jefferson was a schoolboy in Virginia.” In another part, the author writes, “In 1753, young George Washington surveyed the land for the English this point of land where rivers met.” Dillard then takes these allusions as scenery for the exposition of the 1950’s period where she grew up and explored. She ties these historical references in by sharing her own experiences growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with cherished anecdotes about her mother’s eccentricity and her father’s stolid manner that gives you a sense of the conventional American family scheme that she grew up in. Dillard also holds that as children, they grew up living in and believing in the history that Pittsburgh held, but never really knowing that they lived and believed in it. It is the paradoxical concept of when Jean-Paul Sartre in his book Nausea, states, “I am. I am. I exist. I think, therefore I am; I am because I think, why do I think?” The children do not see the larger picture of things. They do not see the majesty and authority of Poseidon’s trident: they see how shiny and fun it is. It is parallel to how they view Pittsburgh. The children see Frick Park and Mellon Park and how the sun shines right on the water in the pond, but with their peculiar Catcher in the Rye-like innocence, they do not see beyond face value. To the children, there is so much more to see in ordinary things, even as the history has been written.
Continuingly, another allusion that Dillard makes can be found in the first chapter. “They wake like sleepwalkers, in full stride; they wake like people brought back from cardiac arrest or from drowning: in medias res, surrounded by familiar people and objects, equipped with a hundred skills.” In medias res, is Latin for “into the middle of things,” and was first coined by Roman poet and satirist, Horace, in his poem, “The Art of Poetry.” Dillard takes an unorthodox stance on growing up as describing it as a scrappy, “piecemeal” stir from a long slumber, only to find that everything is familiar as though it had been done so many times before but did not feel as though it was a mundane task. Instead of a gradual progression, maturing is described as a cyclical forgetting and relearning only to be terrified that you would never be so clearly cognizant of the world ever again. That is why Dillard uses in medias res, to convey the audacity of it all. It is as if growing up is like being thrown “into the middle” of a warzone, and knowing how to fight, but not for what reason.
A significant example of symbolism in the story lies with the Polyphemus moth. The story of the Polyphemus moth is a central image for Dillard in her growing up. The cocoon in the Mason jar opens to reveal a huge moth that could not expand because of the small jar, and its wings “hardened while still crumbled from the cocoon.” The jar is taken outside to let the moth go, and it begins walking slowly down the driveway on its small legs. When she is an adult, the author remembers the moth as she walked down that driveway for the last time. “I have told this story before, and may yet tell it again, to lay the moth’s ghost, for I still see it crawl down the broad black driveway, and I still see its golden wing clumps heave.” As Dillard moves on with her life, the moth is the virtual representation of her life. Never having left Pittsburgh in her life before her departure for college, little Annie is the moth in the jar. She spreads her wings when she is let go, and takes a clumsy yet worthwhile walk down the “driveway” to all that life holds for.