Examine the rising and falling action in My Side of the Mountain.  Integrate analysis regarding the climax, the natural calamities, Matt the reporter, and the novel's resolution.  Along these...

Examine the rising and falling action in My Side of the Mountain.  Integrate analysis regarding the climax, the natural calamities, Matt the reporter, and the novel's resolution.  Along these lines, identify quotes for the themes of living as one with nature and the need for people/relationships.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the complexity in analyzing the rising and falling action in George's work is that it places the reader in the midst of the action.  Embodying the essence of the outdoor world and the literary quality of in media res, it becomes clear that Sam's rising action is existing in a natural world. Just as the natural world does not start and stop for an individual, Sam is shown to be immersed in the middle of it as the novel opens, a condition that he appreciates.  The opening lines of the novel where Sam describes the snowstorm articulate this condition: "The air coming in is bitter cold. It must be below zero outside, and yet I can sit here inside my tree and write with bare hands. The fire is small, too. It doesn't take much fire to warm this tree room."  The rising action of the novel is shown in how Sam appropriates the natural world into his own understanding.  It is filled with challenge, but is also reflective of how Sam is willing to make such a condition work.  For example, Sam notes that while it is cold, "it does not take much fire to warm this room" and that he is able to remain inside, apart from everything else.  The rising action in the novel is established in the exposition with the snowstorm to show that Sam does not see himself against the natural world.  He does not see a conflict with the natural world. Rather, he has appropriated it within his being.

The rising action in the novel and the eventual climax occurs when Sam comes into contact with people.  His fundamental premise rests in his desire to be apart from the constructs of human beings.  This is seen in his dismay at building a guest house: “I was living in the woods like anyone else lives in a house. People drop by, neighbors come for dinner…I felt exactly as I felt when I was home. The only difference was that I was a little harder to visit out here.” The climax of the novel emerges when Sam must reconcile the love he has for his isolation in the natural setting with the human beings who appear within this condition.  The climax of the novel is advanced because, unlike other survival narratives, Sam is not looking to return to the realm of civilization, but rather remain clear of it: "Who knows when we're all going to be blown to bits and need to know how to smoke venison?" Sam finds a sense of restoration to his isolated condition and a domain of condemnation in the world around him, reflective in his idea that civilization can be synonymous with being "blown to bits."  The ending of the novel where Sam's mom decides that "If he doesn't want to come home, then we will bring home to him," represents an instant where Sam must understand that the fundamental challenge in his being will depend on his navigation between the world of isolation and interaction.  This dynamic between individual and the larger social unit will define his identity at the novel's conclusion. The climax is the revelation of this dynamic, and its reality as embedded within Sam.

Throughout the novel, the climax is revealed through Sam's characterization.  It becomes clear that Sam understands that his natural condition is one where he is to be on his own, apart from others.  It is evident in his initial decision to go to his grandfather's farm and be in the wild, and in the realities that emerge to him as a result.  Ideas such as "any normal red-blooded American boy wants to live in a treehouse and trap his own food" and Sam's own interaction with the natural world prove that he is able to live as one with the natural world:

I wonder if The Baron, that's the wild weasel who lives behind the big boulder to the north of my tree, is also denned up. Well, anyway, I think the storm is dying down because the tree is not crying so much. When the wind really blows, the whole tree moans right down to the roots, which is where I am."Tomorrow I hope The Baron and I can tunnel out into the sunlight. I wonder if I should dig the snow.

Even in a condition such as the snowstorm, Sam displays the powerfully transformative theme of living in harmony with the natural world.  Sam does not wish to overcome nature or "build a city" within it.  Sam is not in competition with the natural world and does not seek to be rescued from it.  The natural elements that might challenge him are simply appropriated into his own condition of being:  “Hunger is a funny thing. It has a kind of intelligence all its own."   In his interaction with Bando, Bill, and Matt, it becomes clear that Sam cannot easily forego human interaction.  In being with Matt the reporter, Sam recognizes that there is a need for human contact and people.  Relationships are not shown to be an obstacle in which one has to reject them.  Rather, Sam shows that human beings have to navigate them, struggling to oftentimes find the balance between individual freedom and community.  The condition that Sam finds himself in at the end of the novel is one where he wonders if individuals can be "allowed to live in America today and be quietly different." This theme becomes one of the most dominant as a result of the climax and resolution.

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My Side of the Mountain

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