Part of the beauty of this remarkable essay is how seamlessly White is able to move us in time without it ever feeling disjointed. In the first paragraph, for example, we get the introduction to his boyhood trips to the lake in Maine, his since becoming a “sea-water man”, and then, “a few weeks ago,” his return to the lake with his son. How does he do this?
We often talk about transitions between paragraphs, but what about within a paragraph? Notice how White uses phrases to keep us oriented, even as he transitions us in time. Specifically, he begins with “One summer.” Then, he uses the phrasing “I have since become…” to move us to understand him now as a man. Toward the end of the paragraph, “A few weeks ago…” again transitions us.
An essay should not be a house of mirrors, or a corn maze. An essay works best when the turns and moves it makes flow logically from one sentence to the next, like a drive through a landscape, or a float on a river.
Time is also a thematic element in the essay: the conflation of father and son, the constant (and sometimes ironic) notion that things don’t change, and ultimately, the final line about “the chill of death.” Along the way, of course, the essay is filled with rich, specific details, keeping us engaged in landscape and story of the essay.
For this response, choose one paragraph. (There are 13 paragraphs; you can identify which paragraph you chose by giving us the number). Pay close attention to the transition from sentence to sentence, phrase to phrase. To the precision of the language, the rhythm and music of the words, the clarity of the story and meaning. What do you take from this to apply to your own work?
Please feel free to also respond to any other aspect of the essay.