An Analysis of E. B Whites, “Once More to the Lake” In E. B Whites essay, “Once More to the Lake” he reflects on his summer outing with his son. Throughout the trip, memories of his childhood, long forgotten, resurface themselves as he experiences the same vacation with his own son. These memories create in him a feeling as if time has not changed and that he is reliving his old days. His father used to take him to the same camping spot as a boy.
He was certain that there would be changes since then, but on arrival his senses are awakened and old feelings revived as he takes in the unchanged sights, sounds, and smells of the peaceful lake in Maine. The overall theme of this story is the acceptance of aging and the passing of time. The passage of time throughout the story has a relentless hold on White, he struggles throughout as reality becomes harder and harder for him to grasp. The author incorporates many literary devices which add to his overall vivid descriptions and comparisons, a few which include: imagery, tone, and symbolism.
By these techniques the narrator is able to set the reader’s imagination on fire! Throughout this literary work detailed comparisons are blended in as he remembers his own vacation to the lake as a young boy. These comparisons make it hard for him to face the fact that he has aged very much since that time. The feelings and emotions these reincarnated memories create bring about sensations of a “dual existence” (25) in White. The narrators detailed diction in describing these emotions and senses that are being brought back and relived, arouse similar feelings in the reader.
It makes us empathize for the now, grown man. He remembers such things as the smell of his bedroom, “picking up a bait box, or a table fork” (25), as well as many other intricate details. Everything seems to bring him back to the cherished memories he had stored for so many years of him camping on the lake with his own father. The imagery used in the essay enhances the overall experience. Another important technique which adds to this story is how the author meticulously compares the past with the present. For the duration of the story White repeats the same phrase, “there has been no years” (25, 26).
He feels as if time is at a standstill. The tone that the speaker incorporates, works to bring out deep emotions in the reader. We feel for him as he describes this, “utterly enchanted sea” (26). The reverence he has for the, “peace, and goodness, and jollity” (27) of this special place reveals itself in multiple occasions of the story. He upholds this seemingly sanctuary in the utmost respect as it holds the memories of him and his father. In the course of time, this dwelling place of remembrance will rebirth into future generations.
Something’s that have changed about the place, bring white back to the reality of time and aging. He speaks of how he came upon an old path used by horse drawn carriages back in his day, it used to have three tracks, but now that the automobile was invented only two were seem, etched in the dirt, tire tracks from the cars passing to and from. He states that for a moment he, “missed terribly the middle alternative” (26). Although this actuality is brought up, White pushes it aside and adopts his dual existence willingly.
He continues to imagine that he is his father, and his son, is in fact him, he states, “which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants” (28). White notices another difference, in this otherwise, so familiar place, it was the sound of outboard motors, “unfamiliar nervous sound” (27). They are sounds that bring him out of his dream world; he is distraught over these changes. This makes us believe that the very thought of these dissimilarities were unbearable for him to cope with. He was in denial of the fact that time had passed.
The symbolism used in this essay is brought about in a clear manner when White describes the thunderstorm. This storm is used to represent a sort of rebirth. The rain comes and there is a sudden sense that there is a, “return of light, and hope, and spirits” (29). At this point he begins to see the trip in a whole new perspective or “light” (29). He is hit with a sudden realization that though everything seems just the same, he can make the connection that this is a new generation and new memories are soon to be fabricated, “linking the generations in a strong, indestructible chain” (29).
In the end he is forced to face the absoluteness of time. As he watches his son slip into his cold, wet swimming trunks he once again imagines it is himself then he is suddenly hit with a, “chill of death” (29). He realizes that switching places with his father also means he is going to die. He is brought to the fact that much time has passed. This leads to his concluding acceptance of his own mortality. He wanted so dearly to hold onto the memories of old and never acknowledge the fact that the times had changed, yet deep down he knew that this would be impossible.
In the end White embraced the process of aging and found the good that could stem from it; but it was clear that throughout the narrative the overall theme was his struggle in the acceptance of aging and the passing of time. He concludes that eventually he can use these memories and experiences to connect with future generations of his son, and furthermore his son’s son. He did not have to hold onto the false idea that aging was a curse but he was able to let go and take it as more of a blessing.
He would be able to pass these memories on for years and years to come. People should certainly accept the fact that everyone ages and time goes by quick. Every new moment counts and wonderful memories, experiences, and also wisdom can ultimately be cherished and passed on to further generations of people through these durations of time. Abraham Lincoln once said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”, this quote rings true in the inspirational story, “Once More to the Lake”.
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