Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
W. H. Hudson’s father was a colonist in South America, engaged in raising cattle, running a store, and being so amiable to everyone that he finally lost almost all his possessions. The mother was a stanchly religious New Englander, known in the whole section south of Buenos Aires as a good woman and kind friend. Hudson’s parents loved people so well that their house became a regular stopping place for all travelers.
Even in childhood Hudson was interested in people of all sorts and in every kind of bird, animal, and insect. Though there were many children in the family, he himself was almost a solitary wanderer. At one time his mother, who shared his intense love of nature, was worried because he often stood alone and transfixed. Finally she followed him, only to find he was watching a bird on its nest; she was satisfied that he was not eccentric but that he merely wanted to be by himself.
Hudson believed that in little children the sense of smell was as important to their pleasure as sight and sound. To him, as far back as he could remember, the smells of the pampas grasses and flowers, of the cattle and horses, of the garlic and cumin-seed seasoning, of the Saladero or slaughtering grounds were as vivid as the coloring of the parakeets and flamingos, the feel of bristly thistleweed, or the lovely sounds of flocks of pipits.
The house in which he was born was called “The Twenty-five Ombu Trees” because that many huge,...
(The entire section is 1201 words.)
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Far Away and Long Ago tells of the author's life until about age seventeen. The book develops two important themes: a boy's growing involvement with nature and his coming to terms with death. From his earliest memories at about age four, Hudson discerns an extraordinary response to and delight in nature—its sights, sounds, and odors. The book conveys this delight by narrating the author's experiences with birds, plants, mammals, and reptiles of the Argentine pampas where he grew up. Beyond portraying the boy's simple delight, it shows a keen observer develop into a skilled naturalist. The book suggests that Hudson is more at home with nature than with human beings; he even prefers the solitude of nature to playing games with his siblings.
Throughout the book, Hudson develops the universal theme of death, first among animals, then people. Hudson finds death profoundly troubling, yet his mother comforts him by explaining her belief in the individual immortality of humans. Later, when he faces his own imminent death, he struggles to come to terms with the question and abandons the early optimism provided by his mother. Ironically, his life does not end early, as he expects, but continues for an additional sixty-five years.
(The entire section is 202 words.)