Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Analysis
Dillard is keenly aware of the opposites in creation—beauty and ugliness, bliss and terror. The beauty, grace, and perfect, careless spontaneity of a mockingbird as it plunges in a straight vertical descent from a four-story building impresses her deeply, but it is the grotesque phenomena in creation, such as the frog being sucked by the water bug, which prompt her more persistent and darker speculations. The questions “What’s it all about?” and “What is going on here?” run like a leitmotif throughout the book. They are asked particularly in regard to the insect world, which boasts such a wide variety of puzzling behaviors, from the habit of the female praying mantis of devouring the male as they copulate to the female lacewing’s eating of her own eggs. Dillard muses over the world as a parasitic place in which everything is battered, torn, preyed upon, and devoured. The world does not fit together in a way that makes rational sense; it offers testimony only to the Creator’s exuberance, not to His goodness, or even to His intelligence.
Yet at other times Dillard’s vision extends beyond the problematic aspects of Creation. During moments of heightened perception, she sees the world in a wholly different way, pulsing with divine fire and light. Moments such as these are also a recurring motif, and they act as a counterpoint to the insistent questioning. Indeed, the entire book can be understood as a prolonged meditation on how to see....
(The entire section is 1098 words.)
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