Hugh Willoughby’s Across the Everglades
Despite the overall opinion of our class, I enjoyed Hugh Willoughby’s Across the Everglades. The short history he provided and the description of his journey through mangroves and saw grass was both enlightening and entertaining. He offered insight into the historical part of Florida that we, in 2004, will never know of by first hand experience. Willoughby’s journal was also the perfect handbook for an Everglades class canoe trip. From the intricate metaphors he weaves into his facts to the influence of opinion behind those facts, Willoughby’s work captures the minds of his readers.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Willoughby’s writing is that so much change has occurred in the past hundred years. His setting, though the very Everglades we travel through today, is an Everglades where saw grass was ten feet tall, and trails were no where to be found. His Florida, though located exactly where he left it, now has too many hotels, tourists, and residents to count. The change that has taken place in Florida was one that Willoughby foreshadowed, and one that we would not be able to fully comprehend without the writings of people like Willoughby. He captured the moment on paper for the future to see and gave us a means of comparison. He wrote about change in Florida over the course of a year since his previous visit. He mentioned that a big hotel and bustling tourists destroyed the picturesque and that Florida’s “wilderness has been rudely marred by the hand of civilization” (62). I wonder what he would say today. The mere two thousand individuals he wrote about was a number no where near to the number of people who have since marred Florida. Like Willoughby, I regret change. And even though he said that he will not look at change from the sentimental point of view, there is no doubt that he continued to do so throughout his writings and that he hoped in some way, that readers would do the same. He did not suppress the “romance and poetry for the sterner, material welfare of fellowman” (63). Instead, he wrote with romance and poetry to attract the sentiments of his readers.
Along the same line, Willoughby wrote a poetically engaging defense for Native Americans. He indicated throughout his work that the United States Government was wrong to go “against a people who was willing to live in peace” (17), and he claimed that he would fight on their behalf if ever he had the opportunity (163). He attracted readers with vivid descriptions of the blood that runs through Native American veins and his description of the unsightly shanty that replaced the native’s home. Willoughby’s implementation of descriptive writing helped further his opinion throughout his work, and it is this aspect of Across the Everglades that allows modern day readers to associate the writing with the writer and thus bring the past into light. During class on Friday, some mentioned that they found Willoughby to be writing...