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Discovering Mortality in Once More to the Lake

Discovering Mortality in Once More to the Lake

E. B. White’s story “Once More to the Lake” is about a man who revisits a lake from his childhood to discover that his life has lost placidity. The man remembers his childhood as he remembers the lake; peaceful and still. Spending time at the lake as an adult has made the man realize that his life has become unsettling and restless, like the tides of the ocean. Having brought his son to this place of the past with him, the man makes inevitable comparisons between his own son and his childhood self, and between himself as an adult and the way he remembers his father from his childhood perspective. The man’s experience at the lake with his son is the moment he discovers his own mortality.

The man had experienced adulthood, and therefore could never experience the lake as he did when he was a child. Except for the sound of outboard motors, the lake was pretty much the same as it had been before. “The only thing that was wrong now, really, was the sound of the place, an unfamiliar nervous sound of the outboard motors” (White 153). This “nervous” sound suggests the nervousness of adulthood; the anxieties that sweep through the minds of people who have matured. The noise created by the outboard motors reflects the noise inside the man’s consciousness. Instead of the “sleepy” sound of the inboard engines used when the man was a child, there were now noisy engines, which cluttered the air around the lake. These sounds constantly reminded the man of the restlessness of his adult life. Due to constant obstacles like the sound of the outboard motors or the internal struggles that come with adulthood, the man could only return to the lake as a guest of his own mem…

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…izes his or her mortality in the same way. Some people realize their mortality when they are young, while others realize it an instant before they die. I am unsure if I will ever experience this sensation as the man in this story did. However, knowing that I will one day have to face the inevitable, makes me want to create a belief for what will happen after I reach my fate. I feel I can relate to the way the man felt because I have yet to find answers for what, if anything, will be found beyond my mortality. The unsettling feeling that I get when I seriously think about this probably compares to the feeling the man got when he realized his own mortality. Some people calm this feeling by putting their faith in God. Unfortunately, I cannot escape my suspicion that God is the invention of an animal that knows it is going to die, and it sends a chill up my spine.

Excessive Pride in Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory. Hawthorne’s moral story is told through the perversion of a religious leader, Goodman Brown. Goodman is a Puritan minister who lets his excessive pride interfere with his relations with the community after he meets with the devil. The result is that Goodman lives the rest of his life in exile within his own community.

“Young Goodman Brown” begins when Faith, Brown’s wife, asks him not to go on an “errand”. Goodman Brown says to his “love and (my) Faith” that “this one night I must tarry away from thee.” When he says his “love” and his “Faith”, he is talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his “faith” to God. He is venturing into the woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing so, he leaves his unquestionable faith in God with his wife. He resolves that he will “cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.” This is an example of the excessive pride because he feels that he can sin and meet with the Devil because of this promise that he made to himself. There is a tremendous irony to this promise because when Goodman Brown comes back at dawn; he can no longer look at his wife with the same faith he had before.

When Goodman Brown finally meets with the Devil, he declares that the reason he was late was because “Faith kept me back awhile.” This statement has a double meaning because his wife physically prevented him from being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith to God psychologically delayed his meeting with the devil.

The Devil had with him a staff that “bore the likeness of a great black snake”. The staff which looked like a snake is a reference to the snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and Eve story is similar to Goodman Brown in that they are both seeking unfathomable amounts of knowledge. Once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge they were expelled from their paradise. The Devil’s staff eventually leads Goodman Brown to the Devil’s ceremony which destroys Goodman Brown’s faith in his fellow man, therefore expelling him from his utopia.

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