The Prolonged Pursuit: Unraveling Time in Annie Dillard's "The Chase"

Categories: Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard's "The Chase" may span only six paragraphs, yet its narrative depth and temporal illusion create an expansive experience for the reader. Dillard crafts this effect through her adept use of description, details, transitions, repetition, sentence variety, parallelism, point of view, and tension.

1. Crafting Vivid Descriptions

Dillard's skillful use of descriptive language is evident in passages such as, "He ran after us, and we ran away from him, up the snowy Reynolds sidewalk. At the corner, I looked back; incredibly, he was still after us.

He was in city clothes: a suit and tie, street shoes" (105). This vivid imagery immerses the reader in the unfolding drama, making the chase feel more extensive than its actual length. Streets like Reynolds sidewalk and Edgerton Avenue become familiar, contributing to a sense of homeliness that resonates with readers.

2. Navigating Through the Narrative Landscape

The narrative unfolds with meticulous detail, as seen in the passage, "He chased Mikey and me around the yellow house and up a backyard path we knew by heart: under a low tree, up a bank, through a hedge, down some snowy steps, and across a grocery store’s delivery driveway" (105-106).

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Street names and house references add layers of authenticity, anchoring the story in a relatable setting. Dillard's use of short prepositional phrases plunges the reader into the heart of the action, intensifying the chase's immediacy.

3. Temporal Ambiguity and Childlike Grandeur

Dillard's unique approach to transitions contributes to the illusion of prolonged time. The absence of conventional time markers in transitions, such as "Wordless, we split up" (105), creates temporal ambiguity, leaving the reader unaware of the chase's duration.

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This technique aligns seamlessly with the story's perspective—a seven-year-old's worldview, where everything appears larger than life. Streets stretch endlessly, and the pursuing man looms larger and faster, amplifying the sense of a vast and unfathomable world.

4. Repetition and Parallelism: Crafting Narrative Depth

The strategic use of repetition and parallelism plays a pivotal role in extending the narrative. For instance, "He chased us silently, block after block. He chased us silently over picket fences, through thorny hedges, between houses, around garbage cans, and across streets" (106) employs repetition to elongate the chase. Dillard's application of parallel structure, as seen in phrases like "Running" and "Choosing," reinforces the relentless pursuit, providing a cohesive rhythm that contributes to the story's expansiveness.

5. Tension as a Prolonging Mechanism

The narrative tension in Dillard's "The Chase" serves as a key element in extending the perceived duration of the chase. The relentless pursuit of the thin man in city clothes builds suspense, as illustrated in, "Mikey and I had nowhere to go, in our own neighborhood or out of it, but away from this man who was chasing us. He impelled us forward; we compelled him to follow our route" (106). The breathless urgency conveyed in the prose amplifies the stakes, further elongating the chase in the reader's perception.

6. Reflections on Childhood and Perceived Time

The narrative's point of view, presented through the lens of a seven-year-old, enhances the story's temporal illusion. As the protagonist navigates the chase, every street, every step, is magnified, creating a world where time itself becomes elastic. Dillard skillfully taps into the universal experience of childhood, where the ordinary transforms into the extraordinary, and a brief moment can feel like an eternity.

7. The Symphony of Sentence Variety

Dillard's use of sentence variety contributes to the narrative's expansiveness. From concise, impactful statements like "Wordless, we split up" (105) to more elaborate descriptions of the chase, the ebb and flow of sentence structures engage the reader throughout. This dynamic range prevents the narrative from feeling monotonous and adds layers to the unfolding events.

8. The Artistry of Parallelism

The careful implementation of parallelism in Dillard's prose enhances the story's cohesion and impact. In passages such as, "Running a frantic course and choosing it simultaneously, failing always to find small places or hard places to slow him down, and discovering always, exhilarated, dismayed, that only bare speed could save us," (106) parallelism becomes a thread stitching together the urgency and complexity of the chase, contributing to the overall sense of prolonged time.

9. Expanding the Narrative Horizon

Delving deeper into the narrative, one finds an exploration of childhood innocence and resilience. Dillard invites readers to reflect on the innate ability of children to confront fear and uncertainty with boundless energy and determination. This thematic layer adds richness to the story, further expanding its dimensions beyond a mere physical pursuit.

10. A Tapestry of Themes and Emotions

Within the chase's framework, Dillard weaves a tapestry of themes such as fear, resilience, and the transient nature of time. Each stride in the pursuit becomes a metaphor for life's challenges, and the relentless chase symbolizes the inevitability of time's passage. By intertwining these themes, Dillard elevates "The Chase" from a mere anecdote to a profound meditation on the human experience.

Conclusion: A Timeless Chase Explored

Through the meticulous deployment of description, details, transitions, repetition, sentence variety, parallelism, point of view, and tension, Annie Dillard transforms a seemingly short chase sequence into a timeless narrative. The streets become more than just pathways; they are the backdrop for a relentless pursuit that transcends temporal boundaries. "The Chase" stands as a testament to Dillard's narrative prowess, leaving readers with an indelible sense of the profound and enduring nature of childhood experiences.

Updated: Dec 15, 2023
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The Prolonged Pursuit: Unraveling Time in Annie Dillard's "The Chase". (2016, Sep 07). Retrieved from

The Prolonged Pursuit: Unraveling Time in Annie Dillard's "The Chase" essay
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