An Unwanted Transformation
in E.B. White's "Once More to the Lake"
"Once More to the Lake," by E.B. White is a short story in which White recalls his annual summer vacations to the lake, and in turn develops a conflict within himself regarding the static and dynamic characteristics of this lake, and their relation to the changes that White himself is experiencing as he is growing older. When White takes his son to the lake, he comes to the sharp realization that certain aspects of both the lake and himself are different, and with a sense of reminiscence, White takes us from the time his father first took him to the lake, and tells the new story of his most recent visit when he is no longer a boy, but a father, showing his son this "holy place" for the very first time. Throughout the story, White comments on how many of the elements of the lake have changed, and how other things have stayed constant with the passage of time.
When White arrives at the lake, he finds that many of the characteristics of the lake that he had once held so dear have changed drastically. Upon his arrival, White comments that he "[wonders] how time [would have] marred this unique, holy spot." He fears that the road has been paved, and, when he arrives, he finds that it, in fact, has been. He also finds that the paths that he remembers walking along as a child now have two lanes instead of three. White remarks on how much he "[misses] terribly the middle alternative." White is most upset, though, about the new "sound of the place." Instead of the soft, relaxing boat noises that he recalls from his childhood, the air is polluted by the "nervous sound of the outboard motors." As we will come to find out later in the story, White is not disturbed as much by the aspects of that lake that have changed, but more so by the parts of himself that are different.
In contrast, many features of White's sacred lake have not wavered. The lake itself still possesses the same holy tranquility. The people he finds at the lake are upon this reunion were fundamentally...