“The essay titled “”Once More to the Lake”” by E.B. White reflects on the like of a man with his son. The reflection focuses on a trip the narrator takes to a camping web page by a lake where they used to go as a family a lengthy time ago. The author uses description and reflective approach to evaluate and contracts the scenery and experiences he had when a little boy and that one he was having with his son, as a grown man. He concludes that things have now not changed because much of what he sees and sense at the lakeside is the same as he did many years ago with his father.
The essay analyzes the use of literary devices by the author to achieve his goals. The devices identified include the use of the first-person point of view, the use of descriptive sentences, the use of imagery, the use of run-on sentences, and the use of repetition. The essay uses all the techniques in diverse ways to grab the attention of the reader and communicate the theme of the story.
E.B. White, “Once More to the Lake”
The short story titled “Once More to the Lake” by E. B. White narrates the experience of a man who takes his son to a lakeside camp he used to visit with the family when young. According to Root, different literary analysists have classified the essay by White in diverse ways including narration, autobiography, description, exposition, and even a personal essay (91). A critical look at the content and style of writing reveals that White uses description to stress on the theme of unchanging nature through time. After many years, he returns to the campsite in Maine with his son with the anticipation of remembering his boyhood experience with his father. From his narrative of the place, he concludes that “the years were a mirage and there had been no years” (White 2). The author defends this position by use of detailed scenery and feeling description that helps the reader to visualize and relive the experience of the place. To achieve the effect, White engages that use of the first-person point of view, descriptive sentences, imagery, run-on sentences, and repetition.
The use of the first-person point of view helps in connecting the reader and the experiences described by the author. White’s essay is both personal and reflective. Platizky calls the piece a “deceptively simple autobiographical essay” (171). The fact that gives accurate time setting of 1904 and relates to Maine, where the author used to go with his family, makes it more real than fictional. Therefore, as a reflection of the boyhood experience of the narrator, the use of the first-person point of view is effective. The view enables the author to present his thoughts to the readers, which are then compared to the action that takes place. Most importantly, the first person singular perspective is ideal for the comparison that takes place between the older narrator, and the boy that used to visit the same place with his father. In this case, the voice of the son is muted, and the author does not get understand his feeling of tasting nature up-close. Sampson explains that the essays found in White’s collections of “One Man’s Meat” have that unique approach to first-person narration that gives the readers a good view of the author’s life. Therefore, it is clear that White had perfected the use of the first person point of view to achieve a reflective mood.
The essay by White uses descriptive words and sentences to depict the scenery and the experiences of the narrator. The readers can see, smell, and see that fictional world created by the author courtesy of the writing style. For instance, the author narrates that “I felt the same damp moss covering the worms in the bait can, and saw the dragonfly alight on the tip of my rod as it hovered a few inches from the surface of the water” (White 2). Reading such a sentence enables the reader to see through the eyes of the writer. The mastery uses of adjectives, adjectives, and verbs make the entire essay appear like an action scene, with the camera panning around and zooming for the audience to see the details. In his analysis of White’s works, Atkins remarks that “he proceeds to do just that, taking the reader along with him, gratefully” (16). The descriptive style allows the essay to present details about nature and stress on the theme of unchanging and duality of time. The narrator makes it clear that the details described in the present are the same as what he experienced years back with his father. White proceeds to describe the same “small waves,” “same boat,” same “color green,” “same freshwater,” and other details of the environment (2). Eventually, the audience tends to agree with his view that things have remained the same because of the clarity of the description.
Whites use imagery in the essay to increase the depth of the readers’ experience with the text. He tries to engage all the senses of the reader by use of words and phrases. For example, he writes that “the first smell of the pine-laden air, the first glimpse of the smiling farmer, …the feel of the wagon…the first view. The shouts and cries of the other campers…” (White 3). All the phrases in the two sentences bring stirs the senses of the audience. It forces the reader to imagine the sight, the smell, the view, and the feel of the scenes. Ultimately, the author brings out the essential theme of remembering in the piece. May and Magill note that the use of imagery in short fiction is critical to the establishment of the scene and characters (24). With limited words, the author can make the readers understand the setting of the action and the characters. From Whites essay, the readers can relate to the campsite and the lake because of the effective use of imagery by the author.
The sentence structure of the essay also plays a role in achieving the objectives of the author. White does not use simple sentences but combines several descriptive phrases in one sentence using commas. For instance, the paragraph starting with the words “Summertime, oh summertime…” (3), stretches for about nine lines. It is an unusually long sentence that presents diverse ideas with the same intention of describing a place, action, or a person. The author uses this style severally throughout the essay. According to Atkins, White has perfected the use of words and phrase structures as a way to emphasize his meanings in a story. In the case of “Once More to the Lake,” the use of fragmented phrases in a sentence indicate the confused nature of the narrator’s thoughts. He explains that the whole experience of returning to the lake with his son made him have “a creepy sensation” (White 2). He was not sure whether it was his current self of his son doing some actions that seemed repetitive. In as such, even his expression appears disjointed as he explains the many things that proved to be the same after many years.
White also uses repetition to stress his surprise on the way time seemed to have not moved. The author uses some words several times in a sentence or paragraph as a way to emphasize its importance. In the firsts, paragraph, the word “summer” is used three times. He even writes “summer after summer” (White 1), to indicate that the camping site at lake Maine is very familiar. The same word is repeated in the eighth paragraph. However, in this case, it is used poetically to introduce the long sentence that describes the camping site. The author also repeats the use of the words “same” and “remembering” several times to shows that life has not changed over the years around the lake and he still has a clear memory of how things used to be when he was a young boy. Therefore, repetition is used to stress the theme of the story and also to achieve a poetic effect on the readers.
In conclusion, it is evident that E.B.White used several literary devices to communicate the theme of the essay. The essay is nostalgic, reflective, and descriptive. More so, the narrator compares and contrasts the situation of the past with the present and concludes that things have remained unchanged significantly. The use of descriptive words or imagery is particularly effective in painting the setting of the essay. The readers can see, smell, and feel the natural world where the author feels connected with even after years of separation. Additionally, there is the small connection between the father and the son. The use of first-person point of view does not give the audience a chance for them to understand the feelings of the son. Nonetheless, it is possible to learn that the narrator is connected to the natural world around the camp. Most likely, the campsite reminds him of his family members, especially the father. It gives him the unconscious motivation to become a good father like his father was. But as the essay ends, the narrator realizes that time moves and death is one thing that remains unchanged in life.
Atkins, G. EB White: The Essayist as First-class Writer. Springer, 2012.
May, Charles Edward, and Frank Northen Magill, eds. Critical Survey of Short Fiction: Henry James-Ezekiel Mphahlele. Vol. 4. Salem PressInc, 2001.
Platizky, Roger S. “” Once More to the Lake”: A Mythic Interpretation.” College Literature 15.2 (1988): 171-179.
Root, Robert L. “Once more to the essay: Prose models, textbooks, and teaching.” Journal of Teaching Writing 14.1 & 2 (1995): 87-110.
Sampson, Edward C. E.B. White. Twayne Publishers. 1974.
White, Elwyn Brooks. “Once More to the Lake.” published in Harper’s magazine in (1941).