In "Living Like Weasels," how does Annie Dillard contrast the constructed world and the natural world?

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lizedwards eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Living Like Weasels, Annie Dillard contemplates her encounter with a weasel while she writes from a local suburban pond. The pond is an island of beauty within a developed landscape. The pond serves as a motif that advances the piece's central inquiry into the human relationship to natural spaces.

In one particular passage, Dillard uses several juxtapositions to view the created world and the natural world side-by-side. These comparisons suggest that Dillard finds the natural world elegant and beautiful in comparison to the world humans have created. In the passage, Dillard describes how the pond, though natural and wild, is riddled with human litter and impact. 

This is, mind you, suburbia. It is a five-minute walk in three directions to rows of houses, though none is visible here. There's a 55-mph highway at one end of the pond, and a nesting pair of wood ducks at the other. Under every bush is a muskrat hole or a beer can. The far end is an alternating series of fields and woods, fields and woods, threaded everywhere with motorcycle tracks--in whose bare clay wild turtles lay eggs.

In this passage, there are several pairs of images: a 55-mph highway and a nesting pair of wood ducks, a muskrat hole and a beer can, fields and woods and motorcycle tracks, and bare clay and wild turtle eggs. All of these images are beautiful things among development and impact. Like the pond, these close-up images demonstrate the beauty of the natural world despite the damage often manifested by humans. The natural beauty of the pond exists right under the feet of humans, yet are seemingly unnoticed. These comparisons reveal Dillard's belief that humans are not connected enough to the natural world. 

This passage is perhaps the most clear advancement of Dillard's ideology in Living Like Weasels, but the theme is present in other passages as well. Ultimately, the work's final point is not to disparage what humans have made, but rather to entreat us to connect more deeply to the natural world and its beauty.

 

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