E. B. White Questions and Answers

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In theessay "Once More to the Lake," White desribes the lake house as "a holy spot." Why is the lake sacred to him?

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The lake E.B. White describes in this essay is a "holy spot" for him because, in coming back to it, he is effectively enacting a sort of pilgrimage with his son, a journey to a place where White and his family once enjoyed an idyllic holiday. White's memories of the lake are very fond, and "from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine." White's descriptions of why the vacation was such a "success" are sparse: he remembers the "early mornings, when the lake is cool and motionless," the "wet woods," "the long shadows of the pine" and the "stillness of the cathedral" that was the lake. It is clear that the lake has established itself in his mental landscape as an important place, perhaps not because the lake itself is truly "unique," but...

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On a fishing trip to a lake in Maine with his young son, as the author recalls his own childhood summers at the same lake, he inevitably begins to see himself in his son and is jolted into awareness of his own mortality. This evocative essay, then, deals with time: its delightful past, its pleasant present, and its tragic future—when the author finally acknowledges its passing.  The essay, nostalgic and affectionate in tone, is nevertheless a bit sad and peaceful, much like a reverie, as if White somehow needs to reconnect with the lake before it’s too late, before he, too, passes on. Some of his descriptive words for the lake, “this holy spot,” “cool and motionless,” “sweet outdoors,” and “the stillness of the cathedral” (2), show that White viewed the lake as a nearly sacred place, undisturbed and natural; he seems to have respected the lake to the point of holding it in awe. In paragraph 3, the phrase “remote and primeval” reinforces this impression, as if to say that the lake is prehistoric, without the imprint of people, a thought that foreshadows the essay’s ending with a shock of recognition: “suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.”