In "Once More to the Lake," there is a reference to the chill of death in the last paragraph. What brings this feeling?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this essay, E.B. White is talking about his feelings as he and his son visit this lake that was a special place for White when he was young.  As he visits, White sees himself in a number of different ways.  He sees himself as a youth (through the eyes of his son).  He sees himself through his own eyes "now."  And he sees himself as his own father who is now dead.

This is because he is at this place where he went as a kid.  It reminds him of when he was young and so he sees himself through his son's eyes.  At the same time, he is experiencing the lake as his current self.  But he is also thinking about his father who had this same experience long ago when White was young.  Thinking of his father, of course, reminds him that he, too, will die.

So when White sees his son doing things White himself once did, he thinks about how he was once young and is no longer young.  He also thinks about how his father was once his age and is now dead.  This brings White to think of his own death and that is why he feels the "chill of death."

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Throughout E. B. White's return to the lake in Maine he visited as a child, he experiences and re-experiences the visit as both a child and as a father. At first, he feels that the lake is the same as what it has always been, but he feels that his son, who is busy doing the things kids do, has become E. B. White. In return, E. B. White feels that he has become his father.

During each experience, E. B. White notes the way in which the lake and its environs are similar to what they once were and the ways in which time has changed them. For example, when he is walking across the field, which remains the same, he notes that the third track, where the horses once walked, is gone, and there are only the two tracks for cars. At the end of the story, his son decides to jump into the cold lake during the rainstorm and pulls on his cold bathing suit, but E. B. White has no intention of doing so. At this moment, E. B. White feels a chill of death, as he is aware that he is no longer experiencing the lake as he did when he was a child. Instead, this experience has passed entirely to his son, and E. B. White feels intensely the passage of time and of impending death.

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