The outdoors contains many wonders that a child explores throughout the early years of life; therefore, a person’s childhood tends to position his path for the future. As a result, occurrences seen on an average day sitting at school, exploring in the woods, or examining the stars have the potential to be life changing. An American Childhood (Dillard), “Two Views of a River” (Twain), and “Listening” (Welty) all allocate this thought, yet the works juxtapose each other with different morals.
Annie Dillard writes of the expectations of her to return after completing college and settling in the same town in which she resides her entire life before attending college: “It crawled down the driveway toward Shadyside, one of the several sections of town where people like me were expected to settle after college, renting an apartment until they married one of the boys and bought a house” (2). Dillard feels essentially unpermitted to broaden her horizon of a future.
She believes she had been restricted too early and therefore Dillard feels she is not allowed to live up to her possible potential. Mark Twain, on the other hand, writes of the river and its influence upon him: This sun means that we are going to have wind tomorrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights if it keeps on stretching out like that […].
(1) Within his piece, Twain wonders if he were to have noticed all the diminutive and revealing things of the river as a child, whether it would have foreshadowed the future from the perspective from which he sees the past now. Twain wishes he had respected the river further as a child rather than simply viewing it as an effortless beauty. Eudora Welty also writes of her childhood, explaining her love for the sky and all that dwells within it.
She states, “I could see the full constellations in it and call their names; when I could read, I knew their myths” (Welty 1). Even with all the knowledge she had of the ominous unknown that seems endless and vague to the common child, it still takes Welty until she is already a published writer before she realizes the moon does not rise in the west. Learning of this alters her perspective. However, without believing that the moon rises in the west, less delight and excitement would have occurred within her childhood. Dillard, Twain, and
Welty write of their upbringings and how certain changes, if varied, could have fashioned a different future. They outwardly realize the options they had, and the elements they would have distorted in the past to assist themselves in the future. Where Dillard, Twain, and Welty’s works mutually contain the reference to their childhoods, they contrast each other with the morals of their writings. Dillard’s extended metaphor places her in an equivalent situation as the Polyphemus moth whose overgrown wings span wider than the Mason jar that withholds it.
The piece uses the bit about the moth to foreshadow her telling of her confinement to Shadyside. The moral of her piece is that one’s parents, friends, or even society’s restraints should not oppress one’s aspirations to what is simply considered to be correct: Conversely, Twain’s piece concludes one should not take life for granted because it can exceed so hastily, that a large quantity of imperative information and experiences can be neglected and missed: The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home.
But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. (1) Welty teaches in her piece that a child’s learning is made of specific moments in time and she shares her involvements with this learning: “There comes the moment, and I saw it then, when the moon goes from flat to round.
For the first time it met my eyes as a globe. The word “moon” came into my mouth as though fed to me out of a silver spoon. Held in my mouth the mood became a word” (Welty 1). Eudora reveals that moments like this which seem miniscule can alter one’s personality and interests. Each instant of learning creates a change in one’s mental makeup. Dillard, Twain, and Welty are each eloquent and sophisticated writers.
Their works are relatively alike in the fact that they each converse of their childhoods and what they would have altered within them; however, they juxtapose each other with diverse morals veiled within the pieces. Works Cited Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Twain, Mark. “Two Views of a River. ” Life on the Mississippi. New York: Harper, 1896. Welty, Eudora. “Listening. ” Agents, Russell & Volkening. Welty: 1984.