E.B. White’s essay Once More to the Lake, 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 to go 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.
White’s experience brings him at the lakefront, at which he finds himself staring at the same lake, virtually unchanged. This means that White considers some things that do not really change in spite of the changes around it and the changes that White experiences in his life. White wants to emphasize the permanence of some things, or at least the memory of some things, despite the continual change that happens in the world.
Even though the lake did not change, White’s essay indicates that there are some changes in things that are separate from the lake. For instance, when White arrives at the lakefront, even though he wishes to enjoy the scene and the experience of being at the lake once again, he becomes somewhat bothered by the noise of the new boats that are on the lake. The new boats have noisier engines.
White wants to show that the technology can be disruptive. Even though technology can, indeed, make things become faster and more efficient, technology can also make things noisier and more disruptive. Thus, White emphasizes the negative side of new technologies. Nonetheless, a White continues his story, it is indicated that he has a liking for old engines. This liking started from his childhood. Thus, even though he first views technology as something disruptive, there is also emphasis on the personal perception factor, which means that White did not like the noise of the new engine and, arguably, did not like the new engine, because of the fact that he wants and expected to see boats with the old engines that he saw in the childhood.
Some things do not change. All things change on the basis of the underlying principle that nothing is constant in this world and that ever little thing changes. However, there are some things that do not change, such as the thought of a person, the feelings towards other people that one has, the longing for something, and so on. Perhaps, E.B. White shows the lake is unchanged, but this may be only in his own perception. The lake could have already changed when he arrives at the lakefront as an adult, but his perception of the lake does not change. He still likes what he sees and feels.
His experience of being at the lakefront brings him back to his childhood years when he experiences the lake. Considering that White shows that his perceptions actually switches from 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. Thus, 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 virtually unchanged. Also, the technology that he refers to, in the form of the new and noisier engines, may have also been affected by such switching in his perceptions. Perhaps the new and noisier boats are not really that disruptive. It is just that he was used to the old and less noisy ones, thereby making his claims more personal and not necessarily real.
- White, E. B. (1941). Once More to the Lake [Opens in New Window].
- White, E. B., & Wilde, O. (2008). Essays of EB White. Harper & Row.
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E. B. White, the author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. E.B. White authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973. In addition to writing children's books, E. B. White also wrote books for adults, as well as writing poems and essays, and drawing sketches for The New Yorker magazine. Some of his other books include: One Man's Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner, Letters of E. B. White, The Essays of E. B. White, and Poems and Sketches of E. B. White.
Funnily enough for such a famous writer, he always said that he found writing difficult and bad for one's disposition but he kept at it!
Mr. White has won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which commended him for making “a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”
He died on October 1, 1985, and is survived by his son and three grandchildren.
The Stories Behind The Books
During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, “No, they are imaginary tales… But real life is only one kind of life — there is also the life of the imagination.”
Mr. White lived on a farm in Maine where he kept animals, and some of these creatures made their way into his stories and books, like Stuart in Stuart Little, or Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. After all, as E.B. White said, “I like animals, and my barn is a very pleasant place to be, at all hours!”
“Many years ago,” E.B. White would say, “I went to bed one night in a railway sleeping car, and during the night I dreamed about a tiny boy who acted rather like a mouse. That's how the story of Stuart Little got started.”
How did E. B. White think up the story for Charlotte's Web? “I had been watching a big grey spider at her work and was impressed by how clever she was at weaving. Gradually I worked the spider into the story that you know, a story of friendship and salvation on a farm.”