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Analysis of E. B. White’s “Once More to the Lake”
E.B. White’s essay, Once More to the Lake , which was first published in 1941, describes his experience as he revisits a childhood lake in Maine. This revisiting is a journey in which White delights in memories associated with his childhood and the lake. In effect, his mindset transforms and goes back to his childhood. This transformation is necessary for him to find enjoyment in the journey. However, the transformation also emphasizes an altered perception of the actual lake. For instance, instead of viewing the lake as it is, he uses his childhood eyes to perceive the lake. This condition creates an interesting departure from reality into what he wants to see based on his childhood experiences. Once More to the Lake is a depiction of E. B. White’s experience as he visits a lake once again – the lake that he has been fond of since childhood.
E. B. White’s experience brings him to the lakefront, where he finds himself staring at the same lake, which is virtually unchanged. This means that White focuses on the unchanging things despite the surrounding changes and the changes that he experiences in his life. White wants to emphasize the permanence of some things, or at least the permanence of the memory of those things, despite the never-ending change that happens in the world.
Even though the lake itself has not changed, E. B. White’s essay indicates that there are some changes in things that are separate from the lake. For example, when White arrives at the lakefront, he wishes to enjoy the scene and the experience of being at the lake once again, but he becomes bothered by the noise of the new boats that are on the lake. The new boats have noisier engines.
E. B. White wants to show that technology can be disruptive. Technology can, indeed, make things become faster and more efficient, but it can also make things noisier, more disruptive, or undesirable. Thus, White emphasizes the negative side of new technologies. Nonetheless, as White continues his story, it is indicated that he has a liking for old engines. This liking started from his childhood. Even though he first views technology as something disruptive, the essay also touches on personal perception and preference. For instance, White does not like the new engines and the noise they make. However, this dislike could be due to his desire and expectation to see boats with the old engines that he saw in his childhood.
Some things may not change. All things change based on the underlying principle that nothing is constant in this world and that every little thing changes. However, there are some things that may not change, such as the thought of a person, the feelings that one has toward other people, and the longing for something. E.B. White shows that the lake is unchanged, but this may be only in his own perception. It is possible that the lake has already changed when he arrives as an adult at the lakefront, but his perception of the lake does not change. This perception and the associated emotions do not change, as he still likes what he sees and feels.
His experience of being at the lakefront brings him back to his childhood years when he was a boy experiencing the lake. Considering that White shows that his perception switches between that of an adult and that of a boy, it is arguable that his actual experience of the lake as an adult is marred by such switching between perceptions. It is possible that the actual lake that he revisits is already different, but his perception, as a boy, does not change, thereby making the lake only virtually unchanged. Also, the technology that he refers to, in the form of new and noisier engines, may have also been affected by such switching in his perceptions. It is possible that the new and noisier boats are not really that disruptive. It is just that he is used to the old and less noisy ones, thereby making his claims about the new boats personally subjective and not necessarily real.
E.B. White’s lake is a symbol of the role of physical spaces in personal development. For example, the essay shows that the lake serves as a setting for familial interactions, especially in the author’s past. Also, the lake serves as a venue for reflection. When White goes back to the lake, it facilitates his reflection of change and development. The lake helps him think back and develop a better understanding of his situation.
E.B. White’s essay, Once More to the Lake , supports the idea of the necessity of permanence in life. Even though the lake has changed over the years, it remains a lake that the author can visit. It stands as a reminder of his childhood experiences. In this regard, the lake sheds light on the benefit of having some form or degree of permanence in life. This permanence can help anchor the person and his psychological development.
- White, E. B. (1941). Once More to the Lake .
- White, E. B. (2016). Essays of E. B. White . Perennial.
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What Is The Thesis Of Once More To The Lake
I would have to choose the essay of Once More to the lake by E.B. White. The essay engages readers in a relatable story that is easy to comprehend and read. Many of us can relate to a summer fishing trip with our fathers or even family and this essay encaptures that very essence. “I wondered how time would have marred this unique, this holy spot-the caves and streams, the hills that the sun set behind.” The author goes to explain the wondrous beauty of the lake and its surrounding areas engaging the reader visually. The thesis of Once More to the lake is also much more simplistic and easier to understand. In the first paragraph we know and can understand that this essay is going to be about the reliving of past memories returning to a
In this essay, the author
- Analyzes the essay of once more to the lake by e.b. white, which engages readers in a relatable story that is easy to comprehend and read.
- Analyzes how virginia wolf's the death of the moth was difficult to comprehend due to her lack of transitional phrases. both of these essays capture the reader visually and emotionally.
- Opines that once more to the lake encaptures the reader visually and emotionally. the thesis is easier to understand than the death of the moth.
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Authors often use details that evoke a response in readers to produce an effective description. Their aim is not simply to tell readers what something looks like but to show them. Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Grave” and E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake” are essays that use subjective language to illustrate the principles of effective description. Porter’s “The Grave” describes a childish afternoon of rabbit hunting that brings death close enough to be seen and understood, while White’s “Once More tot he Lake” is a classic essay of persona; reminiscence in which he recreates the lakeside camp he visited with his son.
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E. B. White wrote this essay, “Once More to the Lake”, in 1941. In this essay, White mainly discuss about the power of memory and mortality by telling his experiences with his son and father. White’s father took his family to lake Maine for the month of August in 1904, and they went there summer after summer. “A few weeks ago this feeling got so strong I bought myself a couple of bass hooks and a spinner and returned to the lake where we used to go, for a week 's fishing and to revisit old haunts,” White said. He took along his son, who was far from nature, to his memorable place. They went fishing in the morning same as when White was young. He kept comparing the atmosphere and sought the difference between past and present but he found similarities
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Applying Huxley’s three pole analysis to E. B. White’s essay “Once More to the Lake,” shows that this essay rises to the level of the “most richly satisfying” because White does “make the best . . . of all three worlds.”
“Once More to the Lake” is autobiographical and intensely personal. It arises from a firsthand experience common among Americans for generations: the summertime escape from the city to a mountain lake. The lake that White writes about is Great Pond and is one of several in the vicinity of Belgrade, Maine referred to collectively as the Belgrade Lakes (Elledge 27).
The personal and autobiographical source of the essay is authenticated by its concrete and specific language. This language establishes ”the objective, the factual, the concrete-particular” pole of Huxley’s criteria for excellence. In the end, White’s contemplation of the particulars, both remembered and freshly observed, leads him to the realization of the last pole of Huxley’s trinity — an insight that reaches beyond the particular to affirm an universal truth.
The theme of White’s essay is the passage of time and the changes that it brings. Returning to the lake after many years with his son, Joe, White confronts multiple changes as he struggles with the illusion that the idyllic world of his childhood, and his present existence within it, remain the same. But while the lake in its essence remains unchanged, White himself is different, and so he finally accepts a fundamental irony of life: Because the natural cycle of birth, childhood, maturity, and death are enduring, he too is subject to the natural course that leads to death.
This idea emerges as White compares his memories of the lake with his experience upon revisiting it with his son. The points of comparison are multiple and the language he uses to describe them is concrete and specific.
White’s description of the cabins at the lake provides the first example of his focus on details, and this initiates his confusion of the present experience with the past. He writes that he remembered most clearly “the early mornings, when the lake was cool and motionless, remembered how the bedroom smelled of the lumber it was made of and the wet woods whose scent entered through the screen” (198). His boyhood habit of rising early and taking to the lake ties the present to the past as he hears his son do the same. In the mornings long ago, he would be the first one up and “would dress softly so as not to wake the others, and sneak out into the sweet outdoors and start out in the canoe, keeping close along the shore in the long shadows of the pines . . . being very careful never to rub [the] paddle against the gunwale for fear of disturbing the stillness of the cathedral” (198). And on this return, he knew that it was “going to be pretty much the same as it had been before . . . lying in bed the first morning smelling the bedroom and hearing the boy sneak quietly out and go off along the shore in a boat” (198). White’s description emphasizes the sensuous qualities of this natural world and the common response of children to it.
But taking his son fishing is the event that convinces him “beyond any doubt that everything was as it always had been, that the years were a mirage and that there had been no years” (199). This notion is triggered by a dragonfly that alights on the tip of his fishing rod. When he lowered the tip of his rod “into the water, tentatively, pensively dislodging the fly, which darted two feet away, poised, darted two feet back, and came to rest again a little farther up the rod,” he asserts that “there had been no years between the ducking of this dragonfly and the other one – the one that was part of memory” (199). Here White’s observations are as particular as those of a scientist taking field notes, and his language is just as precise. The identification of the present with his past experience is further confirmed by the details of the lake and the boat:
White gives this Whtiman-like catalog as evidence that everything remains the same in spite of the passage of time. Indeed, it is the sameness of the lake itself that gives him the greatest evidence that things have not changed. Again, with the eye of a trained naturalist, he looks into the placid water:
But White views the lake not only as a naturalist but as a sociologist too. Taking this perspective, his observations are equally detailed and precise.
He recognizes the continuity of the “lake culture.” On the first day of fishing, he observes the campers swimming along the shore, and “one of them with a cake of soap” (199). He remembers that “over the years there had been this person with the cake of soap, this cultist, and here he was” (199). He sees this recurrent figure as proof that everything is as it had always been and “there had been no years” (199). And on the afternoon following the thunderstorm, as “light and hope and spirits return” to the lake, White watches “the campers running out in joy and relief to go swimming in the rain, their bright cries perpetuating the deathless joke about how they were getting simply drenched, and the children screaming with delight at the new sensation of bathing in the rain, and the joke about getting drenched linking the generations in a strong indestructible chain. And the comedian who waded in carrying an umbrella” (202). A mature White witnesses the recurring rituals of play that constitute one thread of the cultural bond uniting the generations. He is comforted by these as well as the permanence of nature.
But in contrast to the things that seem stable and enduring, both technology and urban life are bringing changes. Foremost is the matter of transportation. When White was a child, his family arrived at the town of Belgrade by railway; they loaded trunks onto a farm wagon with much to-do and supervision by his father and were driven to the lake by the host-farmer. Now the road to the lake has been tarred and “you sneaked up in your car and parked it under a tree near the camp and took out the bags and in five minutes it was all over, no fuss, no loud wonderful fuss about trunks” (200). The road from the cabin to the farmhouse where the family took their meals has also changed. The road still ran through “the teeming dusty field” but it was only “a two track road. The middle track was missing, the one with the marks of the hooves and the splotches of dried flaky manure” (199)
The girls who served dinner “were the same farm girls” but “their hair had been washed . . . they had been to the movies and seen the pretty girls with the clean hair” (200). Thus, the coming of the automobile and paved road to the outside world were having an impact on the lake community.
But White gives special attention to one technological change that annoys him. This is the outboard motor. In the old days the boats were powered by inboards “and when they were at a little distance, the noise they made was a sedative, an ingredient of summer sleep. . . But now the campers all had outboards . . . “ and these “made a petulant, irritable sound; at night in the still evening when the afterglow lit the water, they whined about one’s ears like mosquitoes” (201).
While the local store is essentially unchanged, here too the outside world is intruding. Within, “the things were in the same place – the minnows in a bottle, the plugs and spinners disarranged and pawed over by the youngsters from the boys’ camp, the Fig Newtons and the Beeman’s gum” (201). But “there was more Coca-Cola and not so much Moxie and root beer and birch beer and sarsaparilla” (201-202). His catalog suggests the replacement of the rural and local with the homogenized and the commonplace. In the midst of observing the changes imposed on his rural retreat by an intrusive technology and commercialization, White sings a paean to the enduring simplicity and wholesomeness of Middle America:
In this catalog, White abandons himself to a nostalgic reverie for Norman Rockwell’s America. The inventory is both representative and concise, and the paragraph concludes by expressing his wish to have things remain as they were in his childhood when “world” issues concerned only the desirability of the new neighbors or the rumors of minor incidents. Thus, White’s essay exemplifies the first two of Huxley’s poles for evaluating the essay: it is both personal and autobiographical, and at the same time it renders its subject in language that is concrete and particular as well as verifiably objective and factual.
The third pole that Huxley proposes for considering the essay is the abstract-universal. In the conclusion of “Once More to the Lake, White uses a stark metaphor to express a universal truth that he induces from his close observation of the lake, his son, and his own reactions to them. It is the simple but profoundly affecting realization that the enduring cycle of life that made him a father will also lead to his death.
The personal acceptance of this truth comes gradually, but its final realization shocks him. On his return to the lake, White suffers an emotional dissonance as he relives the experiences and sensations of his childhood while observing his son experience them for the first time. This creates the strange feeling that he is sometimes his son who is fishing and boating, and that he is sometimes his father. White’s struggle to reconcile these changes in perspective is both conscience and subliminal. The conflict emerges on the first morning when White compares his son’s actions with his own habitual behavior years before.
When Joe steals out of the cabin early in the morning, White says that he “began to sustain the illusion that he was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father” (198). Commenting in an almost clinical way, he continues: “This sensation persisted, kept cropping up all the time we were there. It was not an entirely new feeling, but in this setting it grew much stronger. I seemed to be living a dual existence” (198). This illusion might be evoked by “some simple act” such as picking up a bait box or laying down a table fork, or simply saying something and “suddenly it would be not I but my father who was saying the words or making the gesture” (198).
In the boat as they watched the dragonfly, White says that “I looked at the boy who was silently watching his fly, and it was my hands that held his rod, my eyes watching. I felt dizzy and didn’t know which rod I was at the end of” (199).
The same sensation emerged when they explored streams, watched the turtles slide off of logs, or lay on the wharf and fed the tame bass. He declares that “everywhere we went I had trouble making out which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants” (202).
At first, he has the sense that time has not passed because the natural features of the lake and the woods appear the same. But the confusion of identity that he experiences is testimony to the fact that things have changed and that he is a separate individual, neither his son, at the onset of life, nor his father who has passed on, but someone at the midpoint on his own path to mortality.
He describes how after the thunderstorm he “languidly” watched his son pull on his swim suit with no thought of going into the lake himself: “I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt, suddenly my groin felt the chill of death” (202). The metaphor “chill of death” is not new, but its association with the idea of procreation gives it force since procreation is the precursor of death for all species.
At this point, White knows that because the cycle that leads from birth to death is universal, he is subject to it, and as he watches his son ascend the path to maturity and independence, he is approaching the horizon of his own demise. It is White’s induction of this universal truth from the concrete and particular of his personal experience that realizes Huxley’s third pole for assessing an essay and elevates “Once More to the Lake” to the highest level of the art.
A universal truth is susceptible to anyone who has the intellect and experience to recognize it. And it is the especial province of the writer to express these universals in unique and individual terms. This is the power of White’s essay. The quality of a literary work is further established when its insights are verified by others who write independently of similar experiences and who express the same universal truth in their own terms. So White’s understanding is echoed in a poem by Donald Hall titled “My Son My Executioner.”
Like White, Hall sees the birth of his son as a precursor of his own death. The poem pivots on the irony that while the newborn child is the executioner of his parents, he is at the same time the instrument of their immortality. This idea is also implicit in “Once More to the Lake.” Generation leads to generation, back to the beginnings of time and forward until the species stumbles into annihilation. Although White will die, his son will have a son who will be similarly nurtured and taken to the lake because he has “never had any fresh water up his nose and . . . [has] seen lily pads only from train windows” (197). This child will also see the cultist with the bar of soap and share the timeless joke about getting soaked while swimming in the rain, and in his maturity will obey the parental instinct to guide and teach. The individual life is thus woven into the fabric of the cultural life, giving it continuity and renewed meaning through the generations.
As Russell Baker says, because “We all come from the past,” parents feel “children ought to know what it was that went into their making, to know that life is a braided cord of humanity stretching up from time long gone, and that it cannot be defined by the span of a single journey from diaper to shroud” (8).
The universal truth that White expresses is thus connected to other truths that are induced from the common experiences of humankind and that together form a network of interrelated truths that define the human condition.
As Huxley suggests, a great essay combines a unique personal perspective on the concrete, the objective, the factual aspects of life, and induces from these a realization of a universal truth. But he might have also added that this universal truth suggests an expanding complex of associations that define what we know intellectually and comprehend emotionally about life.
Elledge, Scott. E. B. White: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985.
Hall, Donald. “My Son My Executioner.” Old Poems and New. New York: Tricknor and Fields, 1990.
White, E. B. “Once More to the Lake.” Essays of E.B White. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. 197-202.
On “once more to the lake” by e. b. white by charles phillips, share this:, 10 responses to critical analysis of once more to the lake.
Thank you so much. I have no clue who you are or where you teach but this has helped me tremendously in my own AP language class. I wish my own teacher would create and maintain a blog! Thank you again for excelling in one of the most thankless job of service- teaching.
My pleasure; always glad to help students. Feel free to check my blog and/or ask questions any time.
Wow, this analysis so insightful! Thank you very much. My teacher gave us an assignment and she thought that some of our interpretations were off, so she wanted us to go back and try to re-evaluate it. This helped a lot. 🙂
I am enlightened by these words written to describe Whites piece “Once More to the Lake”. I say this because I was looking for my own thoughts to be verified through this description. I was sure I would find that Whites father had died in the canoe when it rolled over revealing the chill at the end of the essay. I had brought this up in class and I was the only one who believed this, I was looking for confirmation of my thoughts and instead I found confirmation of others. It matters none to me, to be correct, but everything to be clear.. Thank you……
Thank you Mr. Phillips, It was very difficult for me to traverse White’s essay. Your guidelines became very fruitful. I appreciate your kindness.
When my class read it, we came to the conclusion that his realization was not about death only of life. It also refers to the sudden reality that he is now a man and his son has taken his place. He has the epiphany that his childhood, at that moment, is dead. But I liked your take on it as well. Nice work.
Such a detailed, poignant commentary on a beautiful, classic masterpiece by E.B. White! As a writer and a graduate student of creative nonfiction, the essence of your beautiful analysis resonated with me beautifully…thank you so much for your valuable insight and understanding!
Extremely helpful.This is amazing, thank you!
hello. I would like to use this as a reference. do you happen to have the date of when this was written?
Not sure; you can probably find out by googling it. Sorry.
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Once More to the Lake
16 pages • 32 minutes read
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Summary: “once more to the lake”.
“Once More to the Lake” is a narrative non-fiction essay written by E.B. White . The essay was originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 1941. White (1899-1985) was an American author best known for his children’s novels, including Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little , as well as his contribution as co-author to The Elements of Style , a seminal English-language writing guide. “Once More to the Lake” recounts White’s experience of revisiting, as an adult, a lakefront camp in Maine that his family frequented when he was a child.
White begins by describing his family’s first visit to the lake in 1904, when he was five. Despite a few hiccups, “the vacation was a success and from then on none of [White’s family] ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake” (1). Although his family’s annual visits to the lake are well in the past, White finds himself yearning to go back and plans a vacation with his son. On his way to the lake, White wonders “how time would have marred” the campsite and whether “tarred road would have found it out” (1). He finds that the paved road does, indeed, extend nearly all the way to the lake but is delighted to find that the campsite is more or less the same as he remembers.
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Settling into the vacation, White is struck by a strange sensation: “I began to sustain the illusion that [my son] was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father” (2). This notion persists as the two go fishing for bass, and White feels convinced “that everything was as it always had been, that the years were a mirage and there had been no years” (2). After catching a couple of bass, the two go for a swim, and White takes note of the other camp-goers, who look to him exactly the same as the camp-goers he remembers from his youth. Eventually, White and his son go up to a farmhouse where they are served dinner by young women who appear to be “the same country girls” (3) who have always worked at the farmhouse.
After reflecting on the virtues of summer vacation and the “jollity and peace and goodness” (3) that characterize his memories of the camp, White pinpoints the appearance of outboard motorboats as the quality that most spoils the illusion of a return to his youth. He contrasts these engines with the one-cylinder boat engines that fascinated him as a child. Seeing his son’s desire to master the outboard motor, White recalls the tricks one could perform with a one-cylinder motor if they “got really close to it spiritually” (4).
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Overall, White enjoys this vacation with his son and, although there have been some noticeable changes around the camp, he is able to maintain the illusion that he has assumed the place of his father and returned to his childhood. He ends the piece by describing the onset of a thunderstorm that appeared over the lake one afternoon. As the storm dissipates, the camp-goers rush out of their cabins to resume their swimming while “perpetuating the deathless joke about how they were getting simply drenched” (5). His son decides to join the other campers, and White watches him change into his swim trunks. As his son finishes changing, White abruptly ends the piece with the following line: “As he buckled the swollen belt suddenly my groin felt the chill of death” (5)
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Once More to the Lake Essay
Comparison Of Once More By The Lake And Once More By The Lake
Works of literature are often juxtaposed to one another in an effort to better understand each work in comparison to the other; this is no exception. The themes of the short stories “Once More By the Lake” by E.B. White and “Stone Soup” by Barbara Kingsolver will be compared as well as contrasted. “Once More By the Lake” is a short story about a man who is visiting his childhood lakehouse with his son and is slowly beginning to realize that he unwittingly transitioned from son to father and has now
Once More To The Lake
the essay, “Once More To The Lake” the author E. B. White tries to link his present life with his past life when he was a child while in the essay, “Shooting An Elephant” the author George Orwell emphasizes the universal experience of going against one’s own humanity. [P1] In the first essay, “Once More To The Lake” the author starts off with a father talking about his experiences when he went for camping with his father to a lake in Maine. The author’s family used to visit this lake every summer
Once More Of The Lake
“Once More to the Lake” is a short essay written by E.B. White for his column in the New Yorker, One Man’s Meat. “Once More to the Lake” is a story about a father who is taking his son to his childhood vacation spot. On the trip, the father finds himself inside the memories of his past. Throughout the trip, the father finds differences in the lake from when he was a child. While much of E.B. White 's essay is set in the present, the author explores his own mortality as he looks both to the past
Upon reading E.B. White’s Once more to the Lake, the general presumption I had was that the article provided a deep look at parental relations, but upon my perpetuated reading and research, I have concluded that it has much more to offer. The social commentary enhances the essay greatly, which includes an intricate narrative and tons of biographical content on its famed author, E.B. White. White constantly explores the theme of time, but also develops a theme on the idea of holding onto memories
Once More Of The Lake By. White
“Once More to the Lake” is an essay that was published in Harper’s Magazine in 1941 by author E.B. White. The author tells the story through a first-person point of view and describes his experience at a lakefront camp in Maine. The essay shows White going through an internal conflict between perceiving the lake and acting as he did as a child and observing the lake and acting as an adult. White’s experience and views as an adult almost seem identical to his experience as a child until it is effected
Once More To The Lake Analysis
bad for them. For this reason, the role of a parent in a child’s life is extremely important. Writers E.B White, and Scott Russell Sanders understood this concept very well. By comparing & contrasting their essays “Under the Influence” & “Once More to the Lake” the reader will be able to understand how the fathers of both writers made a great impact on not only their lives but the way that they parent their own children as well. White had a great and memorable relationship with his father in contrast
Summary Of Once More To The Lake
“Once More to the Lake,” by E.B White is a short story that provokes reflection by exploring familial relationships and human relation to time. It narrates the tale of a man who spent his childhood summers with his family at a rented lake property in Maine. After years apart from the sacred place, he decides to return with his son. To the narrator’s relief, the lake and its surroundings appear to be the same, at least on the surface. However, he overlooks the decades that have passed and refuses
In his essay “Once More to the Lake,” author E.B. White reflects on experiences he has had throughout his life at a family vacation spot. Although he writes the essay as an adult, he focuses on many childhood experiences with his father at the lake, comparing them to experiences he is having at same lake with his son. White begins by recalling his first time at the lake. He examines the similarities and differences between the two generations of lake experiences through rhetorical techniques in
Once More To The Lake Essay
“Once More to the Lake” by E. B. White is about a man who decides to take his son on the family vacation to the lake he took with his father when he was a child. During the essay, the author reminisces on his trips to the lake during his youth and tells the reader about how things have changed. The author uses wonderful detail and at some points in the essay feels as if he is a boy again standing in his son’s place with his father next to him. The author shows the readers he is a man who enjoys
Once More To The Lake In the essay “Once more to the lake”, by E.B.white.He was trying to show his past experience when he was a little boy.And how life was back in the day First, Based in the story it mostly about a father and son go to the lake, it was his favorite place for camping such as fishing in his childhood.When’s he and his son look back at that times he feel depressed through his son’s eyes.He feel like he wanna go back in time.His past was kinda sad and good at the same times.Because
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