E. B. White

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Where does White in "Once More to the Lake" link past and present outlooks?

Quick answer:

White connects the missing elements in his son’s perspective to his own childhood experience and memories of the lake.

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In his essay "Once More to the Lake," E. B. White reflects on the ways the lake where he had spent childhood summers has both stayed the same and changed. At first he emphasizes how all is the same, expressing an eternal summer: “Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible,… summer without end….”

There are many changes, however, especially physical and practical; these seem to him inevitable with the passage of time, yet he still regards them nostalgically. Other changes have to do with his status, as he understands his position as a father in part by looking back at his earlier relationship with his own father.

The technological changes include the modes of travel, as they had arrived at the cabin by horse-drawn carriage when he was small and now they come by car. This made it faster to arrive, and “less exciting.” On the lake itself, there are now outboard motors, whereas in his youth these noisy motors had not been in use. This change marks one difference from his son:

My boy loved our rented outboard, and his great desire was to achieve single-handed mastery over it….

Although White does not specify one change, it emerges from his characterization of the environment which he notably fails to mention in his son’s perspective. Early in the essay White compares the forest’s stillness to that of a “cathedral” and calls the lake a “holy spot.” The boy’s mastery over machine epitomizes the secular direction.

Watching him I would remember the things you could do with the old one-cylinder engine with the heavy flywheel, how you could have it eating out of your hand if you got really close to it spiritually.

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