Living Like Weasels Vs Transfiguration: Comparing Two Essays by Annie Dillard

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Living Like Weasels vs Transfiguration: Comparing Two Essays by Annie Dillard

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In Annie Dillard’s essay, “Living Like Weasels”, she explains her first encounter with a weasel and what she gained from that experience. She begins with a story of how a man shot an eagle out of the sky and once he examined the eagle, “he found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat”(1). Dillard is showing how the weasel died by protecting one necessity, which is its life. She then moves to the place where she first “exchanged a long glance”(2) with a weasel while she was sitting on a tree trunk near Hollins Pond. She continues, “Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key…He disappeared. This was only last week, and already I don’t remember what shattered the enchantment”(2). The weasel disappeared following its instincts, “The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons”(2). Dillard is saying how an individual goes throughout their life being cautious while a weasel just lives by following its instincts. She wants to learn how to live that way, in the way of the weasel, “I would like to learn, or remember, how to live”(3). Her idea of doing this is to “stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse”(3). Dillard believes one should stop living so cautiously and instead live “yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity”(3).

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In another one of Annie Dillard’s essays, “Transfiguration”, she also discusses about the way one should go about living. She begins this essay by going into great details about several moth corpses that she finds in a spiders web in her bathroom floor. She then quickly goes back to a time when she was camping alone. She explains how during that camping trip she read a novel that made her want to be a writer at the age of sixteen and then she adds, “I was hoping it would do it again”(111). One night while camping, she was reading by candlelight, “a moth flew into the candle, was caught, burnt dry, and held.”(112). She goes into great detail about the moth burning in the candle, “The wax rose in the moth’s body from her soaking abdomen to her thorax to the jagged hole where her head should be, and widened into flame, a saffron-yellow flame that robed her to the ground like any immolating monk. The moths head was fire.”(112). She then shows that she was telling that story to her students to show them what inspired her to be a writer, “I also told them they must go into life with broadax. But they had no idea what I was saying”(113). She was trying to show her students the struggle of maintaining inspiration. She uses the moth as a moment that can eventually turn significant and the flame as the inspiration. So when the moth turns into flame, it is no longer just a moth but something that shows inspiration.

Both of these essays show that Annie Dillard has certain ideas when it comes to the way to live ones life. She believes one should having meaning, inspiration and necessity. One shouldn’t live so cautiously but instead have significance and pointed will. She uses animals as symbols to show her way of thinking.

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