Epigrams and Old Toms
Ann Pepi, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002
Just as Annie Dillard drew arrows to hidden pennies as a child, she
directs our gaze, with deftly weaved tales of nature, to previously unseen
muskrats, murderous insects, and toast-like butterflies. It remains up to
us, after reading
Shadows lope along the mountain's rumpled flanks; they elongate like root tips, like lobes of spilling water, faster and faster. A warm purple pigment pools in each ruck and tuck of the rock; it deepens and spreads, boring crevasses, canyons. As the purple vaults and slides, it tricks out the unleafed forest and rumpled rock in gilt, in shape-shifting patches of glow. These gold lights veer and retract, shatter and glide in a series of dazzling splashes, shrinking, leaking, exploding.
Yet, in focusing solely on Dillard's masterful ability at using words to
cause mountains to come alive one would miss her greater purpose. She
slips in quotes from Emerson, Thoreau, and her friend "the poet" to give
greater meaning to the nature she experiences without managing to sounds
heavy handed or pompous. The quote containing the thought and idea, which
her examples and words convey throughout her book, is from Heraclitus and
appears as an epigram prior to the commencement of
My question is why? Is she trying to show the reader how the same event can be looked at in more than one way? Is she perhaps attempting to pounce upon us and dazzle us into see rather than slipping through life half awake? Do the epigram of Herclitus and the repeated us of the old tom convey the same thought or vastly different ones?
Last modified 3 December 2006