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Unformatted text preview: Lindsay Lastinger
October 13, 2008
Living like Weasels
In “Living like Weasels,” written by Annie Dillard, a variety of rhetorical strategies and
stylistic devices are used to convey a definite point. Dillard uses a series of contrasts, imagery,
example, and description to illustrate how one must hold on to what they are called to, and live
by instinct. Animals in nature, particularly the weasel, live by instinct, and use wildness and
tenacity to achieve greatness. However, in the human world, instinct is often manipulated and
broken. In her essay, Dillard expresses her deep desire for humans to live the same kind of
instinctive life that is lived by animals in nature.
In this essay, Dillard uses comparison to express the differences between the natural
world and the human world. These comparisons are highlighted when she is describing Lake
Hollins. She speaks of it as having a “…55 mph highway at one end of the pond, and a nesting
pair of wood ducks at the other…” She also says that “under every bush is a muskrat hole or a
beer can.” These comparisons suggest the different lifestyles of animals and humans. Animals
know their purposes in life, and live accordingly to these purposes. All the while, humans are too
preoccupied to fulfill their purposes in life, leading to ultimate failure.
Another one of the more prominent stylistic devices used in this essay is imagery. In each
paragraph, different elements are vividly described, giving readers realistic mental images. One
element that is briefly described is the lake. Dillard portrays it as having “…six thousand inches
of water and six thousand lily pads…” Another element that provides the essay with imagery is
the hunting tactics of a weasel. A weasel’s methods of attack on prey include “biting his prey at
the neck, either splitting the jugular vein at the throat or crunching the brain at the base of the skull, and he does not let go.” These images may be somewhat disturbing, but they provide the
imagery that is vital to the meaning of the essay. The weasel does not let go of his prey, similar to
the way he does not let go of his instincts, his true necessities of life.
The last of Dillard’s literary strategies is the use of example. She uses the weasel as an
example of the way she wants humans to live. A weasel, like all animals on earth, is “obedient to
instinct.” The weasels “live as they should,” while humans live by a series of exasperating
choices. Dillard admires the characteristics of the weasel, and this is why she uses it as an
example of admiration in her essay.
In conclusion, Annie Dillard uses several forms of comparison, imagery, and examples to
convey her point. Her point is that humans should live as animals live. They should find their
calling in life, their one true necessity, and stick to it. Like the weasel, they should be open to
both time and death, and not let their instincts be manipulated. All in all, they should let the
lifestyles of animals provide them with inspiration to become better people. ...
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