E. B. White's Once More to the Lake: Tension between Past and Present

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  • Topic: Time, Abstraction, Idea
  • Pages : 3 (875 words )
  • Download(s) : 181
  • Published : March 22, 2013
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The concept of memory reveals a tension between past and present, as memory spans days, years, and decades, resurrecting the past as an integral part of the present moment. In E.B. White’s essay “Once More to the Lake,” a father struggles with an internal conflict between the present and the past, and between memory and reality. Through the use of contrasting stylistic elements, as well as synchronization and repetition, the father’s insistence that “there had been no years” (446) blurs the line between his memory and his experiences with his son, altering the very concept of time itself. White first generates an impression of dichotomy in his essay through the contrasting of two tones, one tense and the other tranquil. When relating his previous vacations, White uses phrases of quietude, describing the lake as having “the stillness of the cathedral” (445) or of appearing “infinitely remote …” (445). His choice of “stillness” and “cathedral” implies a sense of awe and reverence for the lake, while “infinitely remote” accentuates the sheer magnitude of the lake’s serenity. However, when describing the present, White jolts the reader with a conflicting tone of unease, made even more abrasive by its juxtaposition with the peaceful tone: “I wondered how time would have marred this unique, this holy spot…” (445). Here, the narrator pauses after unique, underscoring the religious word, “holy.” However, this emphasis mixes apprehensively with the jarring verb “marred.” The friction between tones of tension and release reflects the narrator’s allegation that “there had been no years” (446), a seemingly impossible avowal made true by the disparity between past and present. The abrasion between the two tones emphasizes this contrast. This friction between the present and the past further reveals itself through White’s pairing of concrete and abstract images. One of the most important instances of this combination occurs as the father observes a dragonfly with his...
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