Friday, March 31, 2017

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Final Response

The memoir Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard takes place during Dillard's year long stay near Tinker Creek. During the year that Dillard lived near the creek, she has many experiences, some beautiful and some tragic, and she talks about God's role in each of her experiences. For the first half of the novel, Dillard takes a via positiva look at God and his role in nature. At one point in the first half of the memoir, Dillard is describing a mockingbird as it free falls before taking flight and she says, "The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do it try to be there"(Dillard 9). Dillard is claiming that the beautiful parts of the world are not just beautiful for us to see and experience them, they are beautiful because they just are. This reminds me of the common riddle that asks if a tree falls in the woods, does it
make a sound. It begs the question of whether things can actually be beautiful without a person being
there to perceive it that way.

During the second half of Dillard's memoir, she takes a more via negativa look at life. She spends a lot of time talking about some of the more grotesque parts of nature: birth, death, and bugs. She begins Chapter Ten by explaining a nightmare she had where fish hatched from moth eggs, and this began her obsession with the birth of different creatures. However, she does not only mention the reproduction of animals, she also talks about plants. At one point she said "Fecundity is an ugly word for an ugly subject. It is ugly, at least, in the eggy animal world. I don't think it is for plants"(Dillard 185). Closer to the end of this chapter, Dillard talks about how so many eggs are laid, but only so many of each species survive. She sees the cruelty in this and says "Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. This is easy to write, easy to read, and hard to believe"(Dillard 201). Dillard sees many other cruel aspects of the world in this chapter and further questions God and his role in the grotesque parts.

As the memoir is coming to a close, Dillard seems to take a more neutral stance, accepting both the negative and positive parts of God. She starts to find more admiration for the corruption in the world while she tried to find the beauty in the grotesque. She says "I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are by dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down"(Dillard 278). This passage is talking about the world and comparing it to a wreck that is littered with imperfections, but that is beautiful in spite of all the imperfections. The world is like that in many ways, because even though there is death and destruction and war, we still have hope and faith that
Moth Eggs
get us through the hard times. That is the true beauty of the world.

In conclusion, Dillard uses her memoir to search for God in nature and she find him in many different ways. She sees the beautiful parts, such as the flowing creek and the bird, and she sees the grotesque parts, full of death and bugs. And finally, she sees the world as a whole, where the beautiful and grotesque live side by side. This is the world that God created, and there is beauty in everything.

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