Annie Dillard’s and Alexander Theroux’ Analysis of Freedom
Although the essays “Living like Weasels” Annie Dillard and “Black” by Alexander Theroux tackle two different subjects, they both use similar strategies in order to get their points across to the reader. Dillard uses the Weasels feral nature to analyze freedom. Meanwhile Theroux uses the misconceptions of the color black to analyze perception and first impressions. Both essays employ the use of paradoxes and imagery to get their point across to the reader.
In the essay “Living like Weasels” Annie Dillard ponders on her first encounter with a weasel in the wilderness. Dillard begins her essay by explaining the different characteristics that make the weasel a wild animal. In the first paragraph, Dillard writes that the weasel “stalks rabbits, mice, muskrats, and birds, killing more bodies than he can eat warm, and often dragging the carcasses home” (146). Dillard’s offers a thurough explanation of the geographical aspects of Hollins Pond, the place in which she encountered the weasel. She states that it is “a remarkable piece of shallowness” (146). Dillard dives into the theme of freedom by comparing the lives of a weasel and that of a human. Dillard proclaims that humans can learn many different things from the weasels wild nature. She explains that the wild aspect of the weasel can help humans explore and learn a philosophy that is based in freedom and impromptu decisions. Dillard believes that the weasel is a metaphor for how a person must try and grasp at whatever makes them happy and not let go just as the weasel does not let go. She explains “I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go” (148)
Dillard’s thesis invites reader to ponder on the idea of freedom and choice. Humans have a distinct ability that other forms of life do not possess. This is the unique quality of being able to make different choices. The ability of choice is often times mistaken for freedom. In reality the concepts of choices often times leads to a restriction of freedom The authors argument about freedom can seem radical because it states that humans could see the true meaning of freedom if they did not have to make thought out choices. Dillard message is that humans should tap into the most basic of instincts which is doing what makes you happy. She suggests sticking to this mantra “wherever it takes you” (148).
In the essay “Black”, Alexander Theroux probes into the distinct nature of the colors black and white and their intricate relationship with each other. Theroux studies the nature of the colors through his analysis of misconceptions that exist about the two colors. He does this by using different lines from poets and writers. Theroux delves into the different stigmas that are associated with the color black. Black is often times used to represent something sinister, evil, and dark. Black often represents “disease, destruction and death” (319). Black can also represent the absence of life. This absence brings forth the unknown. This fear of the unknown is in its purest form the reason behind humans hatred of the color black. Theroux then uses the color white to challenge the classic negative perceptions associated to the color black. While the color white is seen as less evil it also displays a certain amount of ambiguity. Just like the color black, white is also empty.
Theroux highlights the different paradoxes that are associated the color black. While black is most often viewed in a negative context, it can also be viewed as elegant, mysterious, and chic. He explains that black absorbs all wavelengths. This creates the paradox of black being barren and empty when in reality it has an abundance of different colors. This raises the question if black is the absence of color or rather is it so complex that it definition should be broadened to include all the colors that it engulfs. The color black is in itself the paradox that Theroux is using in his essay. Black gives the appearance of being both peaceful and chaotic all at once. Black is both the absence of color and the abundance of it.
This essay, while extremely complex and challenging to read, has a relatively clear message. Theroux artfully compares and contrasts the different elements in this piece in an attempt to point out misconception and undue judgment. When our initial perceptions indicate two entities as opposites, our perceptions can both be completely correct and incorrect at the same time without becoming a contradiction. Although black and white appear to be opposites, through his essay, he proves that they are, in effect, the same thing; this truly amazing phenomenon is essentially made possible by the complexity of language.
Both of the essays use a lot of imagery in order to help aid get their point across. In the essay “Living like a Weasel”, Dillard uses imagery in order to illustrate the meaning of wilderness. By describing where she encountered the weasel, Dillard allows the reader to be engulfed into the weasel’s world. With statements such as “I had crossed the highway, stepped over two low barbed-wire fences, and traced the motorcycle path in all gratitude through the wild rose and poison ivy of the pond’s shoreline up into high grassy fields. Then I cut down through the woods to the mossy fallen tree where I sit”, she makes it possible to see what the weasel sees. In the essay “Black” Theroux also uses an abundance of imagery in order to facilitate the readers understanding of his paradoxical message. He states “black is darkness, at both end of life. It’s creepy, decaying, old, and self-deluded. With these statements he allows the reader to see how the color black is portrayed in a negative fashion. Both essays use paradoxes in order to get their point across to the reader. In “Black” Theroux uses the negative connotation of the color black versus its actual definition to illustrate how things are often not as negative as they seem. In “Living like a Weasel”, Dillard uses the Weasels wild traits to make a paradoxical analyses about freedom and choices. Both essays are successful in getting their distinct points across.
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