“Once More to the Lake,” by E. B. White, is about the return to the lake of his childhood after many years with his son. The theme of White’s essay is the passage of time and the changes that it brings. He confronts multiple changes as he grapples with the idea that the peaceful place of his childhood, and his existence in it, remain the same. But while the lake in its essence remains unaffected by time, he himself is changed, and then he finally acknowledges one basic irony of life that he is subject to the normal course of birth, childhood and the path that guides to death.
This awareness develops as he vividly describes his memories of the lake with his revisit with his son. The description of the cabin presents the first example of his concentration on details, and this begins his confusion of the present experience as it collides with the past. He reminisced “the early mornings, when the lake was cool and motionless, remembered how the bedroom smelled of the lumber it was made of and the wet woods whose scent entered through the screen”.
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His childhood routine of rising early and taking to the lake ties the present to the past as he hears his son do the same and prompts the confusion with the past and present. But taking his son fishing on the lake is the experience that persuades “beyond any doubt that everything was as it always had been. . . that there had been no years”. This belief of his is caused by the dragonfly that landed on the tip of his fishing pole. When he sees this he states that “there had been no years between the ducking of this dragonfly and the other one ??? the one that was part of memory”.
This comparison with the past and present dragonfly act as evidence that everything remains the same, in spite of the passage of time. Truly, it is the consistency of the lake itself that gives him the greatest evidence that things have not changed. Then in the conclusion of “Once More to the Lake,” he uses a glaring metaphor to articulate the total truth that he creates from his reflections of his son, of the lake, and of his reactions to them. The personal acceptance of this truth comes slowly, but its ending realization shocks him.
It’s the plain but extremely affecting comprehension that the cycle of life that made him a father will also lead to his death. This creates the weird sensation for him that he is that he is sometimes his father and sometimes his son, because he sees himself within his sons actions. The confusion of identity that he experiences is indication to the fact that things have changed and that he is a detached individual, neither his son nor his father but someone in the center on his own path to death.
E. B. White uses sensory details, comparisons, extended analogies and metaphors to relay one specific idea in this essay; that the passage of time is constant but it doesn’t change anything. The repeated notion given to readers is that all go through the cycle of life and death, and because of that cycle, time is eternal but changes nothing. The confusion of his identity throughout the essay presents readers with the sense of a repeated pattern that all of humanity goes through.