Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

While spending a week alone on the island of Captiva, Florida, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea, a collection of eight short essays inspired by the ebb and tide of the ocean. Each meditative piece focuses on a particular seashell, which Lindbergh uses to symbolize various perspectives on modern life. Gift from the Sea was on the best-seller list for more than six months, and it is still shared among women of all ages.

To become aware of inner rhythms, one must let today’s tides erase yesterday’s scribblings. With a mind free of responsibilities and time schedules, one is ready to receive the gift from the sea. Lindbergh uses these thoughts to introduce her collection of meditative essays. During her walks along the beach, she finds various shells; each unique design symbolizes different aspects of life, love, relationships, and identity.

The first shell is a channeled whelk, which is simple and bare. She realizes that her life is not simple since she has a husband, five children, and a home which require her attention. Her background, education, and conscience also contribute to the roles that she believes she must carry out in life. In satisfying external forces, she feels that she has lost a personal core, an individuality that lets her be herself. She wants to give to the world as a woman, an artist, and a citizen. Only when she has found her own means of giving will she feel an inward harmony that will be translated into an outward harmony. With a simple, unitary purpose that gives her direction, she will not feel fragmented by the multiplicity of life. She concentrates on removing the distractions that are inherent in her life and on replacing those tensions with a balanced core of inner peace.

The next shell is the moon shell whose spiral forms a solitary eye. To Lindbergh, this symbolizes that all people are alone. She claims, however, that people have forgotten how to be alone because they clutter their lives with constant music, chatter, and companionships. She encourages individuals to relearn how to be by themselves. When alone, people can get to know themselves, and in knowing themselves as individuals, they will be more willing to...

(The entire section is 905 words.)