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.