Essay about Annie Dillard 's Living Like Weasels

2508 Words Oct 2nd, 2016 11 Pages
A consequence of the freedom inherent in the genre of the personal essay is that the essayist may fit its form to its function, shaping the style and structure of its rhetoric to achieve whatever aim she pleases. The artistic effectiveness of this freedom is well illustrated by Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels,” an essay that seeks not merely to describe or reflect on a meaningful experience, an encounter with a weasel, but also to convey the very essence of that experience to the reader on a somewhat deeper level.

In particular, Dillard’s writing reveals a strange duality present at the very heart of her reaction to seeing the animal, centered on the question of whether or not the weasel (and all it represents) is fundamentally alien to humankind. For in many ways the essay holds up the weasel as an ideal - of nature and wildness, of sensory and spiritual existence. Insofar as these qualities strike her as admirable, Dillard presents the weasel as an exemplar of proper living, which a person might do well to imitate. But at the same time, she also reflects – in both the text and the subtext of the essay - on the extent to which there is an impenetrable barrier between the weasel’s world and her own, since humans seem far removed from the mindlessness and purity of wild animals. In this sense, Dillard hints that the weasel’s example is not entirely applicable to humanity.
As readers, what are we to make of the paradoxical coexistence of such contradictory messages…

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