Comparison of Once More to the Lake and The Grave

Comparison of Once More to the Lake and The Grave

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Comparison of Once More to the Lake and The Grave

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.

One of the first things readers notice when they read Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Grave” was her use of vivid details. Miranda’s clothes are described in specific details: She was wearing her summer roughing outfit: “dark blue overalls, a light blue shirt, a hired man’s hat, and thick brown sandals.” Through her use of detail, Porter creates her dominant impression about Miranda’s feelings on female decorum as shameful. Porter describes Mirandas meeting with “old women. . . who smoked corn-cob pipes” she met along the road:
“They slanted their gummy old eyes side-ways at the granddaughter
and said, “Ain’t you ashamed of yoself, Missy? It’s aginst the
Scriptures to dress like that. Whut yo Pappy thinkin’ about?”
By describing Miranda’s reaction to the old women’s’ questioning, Porter conveys the sense of embarrassment Miranda felt. She describes Miranda’s reaction by using a simile: “with her powerful social sense, which was like a fine set of antennae radiating from every pore of her skin . . . “ Miranda is ashamed because she knew it was rude and ill-bred to shock anyone although she had faith in her father’s judgment and was perfectly comfortable in the clothes.

Another example of Porter’s use of specific details is how she describes the dead rabbit. As
Miranda’s brother Paul stripped the skin away from the dead animal the “flayed flesh emerged dark
scarlet, sleek, firm.” He slit thin flesh from the center of the ribs to the flanks, and a scarlet bag”
appeared. He slit the bag open to find a bundle of baby rabbits, each wrapped in a “scarlet thin
veil.” Paul pulled them off to reveal their true appearance: “dark grey, their wet down lying in

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minute even ripples, like a baby’s head just washed, their unbelievably small delicate ears folded
close, their little blind faces almost featureless.” Not only does Porter give vivid, specific details
she also uses a simile to compare the baby rabbits “wet down” to the freshly washed head of a
human baby. She uses this to find similarities between the two to provide a fresh view of both.
Readers also notice precise detail and vivid language from E.B. White’s essay “Once More
tot he Lake.” The area around the lake is described in specific detail: the cottages “sprinkled
around the shores.” It was a “fairly large and undisturbed lake.” White creates a dominant
impression of the lake as “infinitely remote” and “primeval.”
White continues to describe summertime as a “pattern of life indelible.” He goes into detail
about the “background” and “the life along the shore.” He uses personification to describe the
designs of the cottages along the shore giving them human qualities such as “innocent” and
“tranquil.” He also uses personification to show how the American flag was “floating against the
white clouds in the blue sky.”
By describing the thunderstorm, White conveys the sense of foreboding he felt. When he
first introduces it he compares it to a “revival of an old melodrama” that he had seen long ago with
“childish awe.” In a sense, the thunderstorm foreshadows the ending of the story. White caches a
glimpse of reality; he realizes he does not have enough time left and death is upon him.
Subjective description conveys the authors personal response to their subject and tries to get the
readers to share it. The authors subjective response is not expressed directly through a
straightforward statement of their opinion or perspective. It is often revealed indirectly, through
their choice of words and phrasing. White and Porter vividly and specifically recreate their
personal childhood memories by using vivid details, and being very descriptive and specific about
things that stick out in their minds.
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