Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Analysis - Essay

Annie Dillard

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Dillard’s poetic prose paints vividly her inside view of nature, making tangible what most not only do not observe but do not even think about—the soul of the living world. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a challenging book for young adult readers, but it is an invaluable one. The challenge is not a matter of difficult writing. Dillard’s prose, although it can be intimidating in its allusiveness, is as naturally lyrical as the reader’s heartbeat. The challenge of the book lies in the complexity of the life-and-death issues that it invites the reader to ponder: “‘If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?’ ‘No,’ said the priest, ‘not if you did not know.’ ‘Then why,’ asked the Eskimo earnestly, ‘did you tell me?’” The book is not only an exploration of Tinker Creek, but of the human soul, “a meteorological journal of the mind” that provokes readers to reexamine their experience. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek explores lovingly human beings’ relationship to the natural world, to one another, and to God. Its openness to new possibilities may be the book’s greatest appeal for young adult readers.

This volume stands in a long tradition of pilgrimage books that recount expeditions undertaken in search of faith. It also stands in a tradition of American writers who meditate upon nature, who find in the physical world stimulus for metaphysical contemplation. Dillard taps directly into the thoughts of Henry David Thoreau, the most influential of those transcendental observers whose book Walden (1854) explores the Walden Pond area near Concord, Massachusetts, as thoughtfully as Dillard explores the Blue Ridge Valley near Roanoke, Virginia. Dillard’s version of Thoreau’s close analysis of nature, however, is updated by the perspective of a modern woman. Where Thoreau sees incursions of society into nature, Dillard looks at nature breaking through into society. Where Thoreau yearns toward simplicity and unity, Dillard finds variety. Where Thoreau fights toward resolution of the great questions of life, Dillard insists on asking questions....

(The entire section is 864 words.)