E.B White: "Everything Was as It Always Had Been"
By: Natalina (Sogang University)
People usually like to retrieve their childhood memories when they get older. Sometimes they can remember what they have done in their childhood well, but sometimes they don’t. Revisiting the places where they visited the most when they were young, or seeing their childhood photo album again, or sometimes seeing themselves through the children around them who act the same way as they did when they were young are some ways of recalling childhood memories. E.B White, the author of “Once More to the Lake”, recalls his memories by revisiting the place that he went the most with his family every summer, a Maine Lake, in his childhood time. After he replaced his father’s position as a father and his son replaced his position as a son, he took his son with him to the lake one day to experience again the moments he had experienced. When he got there, he found out that things around the lake were unchanged although we all know that everything gradually changes with the passage of time. There are several examples we can see in White’s essay “Once More to the Lake” which prove that everything remains the same for him.
The first example is the lake itself, the water and its small waves, the boat, the green grass, the farms and their farmhouses for White, the ways they all look have not changed. He describes things from the past as if nothing has ever changed, because he still feels very familiar with the place and the things around it. When he returns back to his childhood vacation spot, the lake, once more with his son, yet he clearly remembers all the things he saw at the first time he went there with his family. It shows that White has a very special feeling and view to this place as a holy spot not as a usual place. Imagine that this happens to us, I believe that we also can only remember places that we think are special although for others they are not. Therefore, even though it has been a long time White left the lake, but he still explicitly remembers all his memories in that place.
The second example is the behavior of his son which is exactly the same as his when he was a young boy. “I knew it, lying in bed the first morning, smelling the bedroom and hearing the boy sneak quietly out and go off along the shore in a boat.”, (White, 187-188) and it shows that his son’s attitude reminds him of how he was always the first up, although now he lays still while his son sneaks out earlier in the morning. Everything that he sees from his son’s behaviors makes him think that his son was him. As he says “I began to sustain the illusion that he was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father” (White, 188). Many times he keeps repeating the same thing that he got confused and unable to distinguish who he was, whether a father with his son or him with his own father, because he and his son in the present share and do the same thing as he and his father did in the past. That’s why White says that change is changeless since both the past and the present have no big difference for him. We all know that time goes on, and people change, and sometimes the nature and things around it do change as well, but still some of them remain the same to recall our memories and bring us travelling back to where we were. However, it depends also on individual perspective that whether or not things and the person himself change.
The last example is his feeling of being a young boy again when he returns there. Throughout the essay, White says that he frequently finds himself seeing the lake through the eyes of his son. He imagines and rethinks himself as a young boy by standing in his son’s shoes. The place brings him to an illusion world which got him confused about him, and this clearly represents that he struggles by letting of his child inside of him. However, he seems enjoy the illusion of returning back to the past as he was a little boy, and experiences the unchanging lake once more. If we happened to revisit any places that we had been the most, it surely brings us back to the past, to who we were and the things that we did at the time until we left the place, because as humans, we all experience something for the first time which will stick with us for the rest or our lives.
In short, White’s illusion makes everything he sees around the lake seems like they bring his past to the present even though it just happens for a while artificially. The lake gives White a sense of his boyhood life because years after years it remains the same. He does realize that time has moved forward and he is growing when he hears the unfamiliar nervous sound of the outboard motor. However, some things don’t change, only the role in which he plays. Hence, the past is just something that we cannot erase from your memory, or maybe some can, but surely someday all the memories recover accidentally without us expecting that, just like what happened to White. All the senses, whether it is smell, sight, hearing, taste, touch, can physically bring back memories, because in fact through these senses White recalls his memories. As White says in the sentence “Outside, the road was tarred and cars stood in front of the store. Inside, all was just as it had always been”. It can be analyzed that White tries to say outside there we could see everything changes as time goes on, but inside, the whole things that we already done stay the same.