Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

by Annie Dillard

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What events influenced Annie Dillard's writing of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek?

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In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, Dillard explores the area around Tinker Creek in the Blue Ridge Mountains while offering observations about life, religion, solitude, and the natural world. She divides the book into sections matching the seasons of the year. When Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was published, it received great critical acclaim and won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. Several events influenced the way that Dillard wrote the book.

First of all, Dillard wrote her master's thesis on "Walden Pond and Thoreau." Critics have often compared Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to Thoreau's masterpiece, Walden. Both have solitary narrators making observations on nature, literature, and other subjects in natural settings, and they are structured similarly. Dillard greatly admired Thoreau's work and considered Walden Pond a "perfect metaphor" and "vehicle for thought."

Secondly, although Dillard did not live in the wilderness as Thoreau did, but rather in a normal suburban neighborhood with her husband, she began to take long walks in the natural areas around her home. As she strolled, she would constantly encounter fascinating natural phenomena, such as local animals. She also read widely during the same period. From her personal observations and her readings, she wrote twenty volumes of journals from which she drew the material for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. From her journals, she assembled 1,100 note cards full of facts, quotes, anecdotes, and ideas. While working on the book, she shuffled them around to try to come up with the best order for the material.

Finally, Dillard began writing the book for one or two hours a day from home, but as her ideas developed and she became immersed in writing, she found that she needed a place where she could be completely cut off from the commonplace. As she explains in her book The Writing Life, she rented a cubicle in the library at a nearby college. Even the mundane view outside the window distracted her, so she lowered the blinds to further isolate herself and wrote for fifteen to sixteen hours a day until she finished the book.

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