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Abby Broadhurst

IB English 11 – Pd. 6
Mr. Jameson
April 26, 2013

CSI: “The Deer at Providencia”

Throughout the essay “The Deer at Providencia” Annie Dillard incorporates cacophony, reversal,

and opposition in order to depict an experience which leads to her newfound understanding of the value

of pain and suffering in a world that often questions said worth. The essay begins as Dillard describes a

trip she once took to the Ecuadorian jungles. Shortly upon arriving, Dillard spots a deer tied to a tree in a

small clearing, just inside the village of Providencia. Although the villagers do not seem to react to the

deer’s suffering, the deer having gotten three legs twisted hopelessly in a rope, Dillard’s unease and the

scene’s evident tension are obvious. Dillard conveys this sense of tension through cacophony, describing

the scene as “the rope twanged, the tree leaves clattered” and “the deer’s free foot beat the ground” (62).

She then continues to detail the deer’s movements using words such as “thrashed” and “kicking” (62).

The negative connotation of these words as well as the corresponding sense of cacophony enhance the

intensity of the situation and prompt emotions of sympathy for the deer and confusion as to the villagers’

response to the situation. The effect of the cacophony and sympathy for the deer is important as they

impact Dillard’s corresponding use of a reversal. After watching the deer for a seemingly never-ending

period, the villagers take a relaxing respite, enjoying an ironic lunch of venison. It is during this lunch

that Dillard learns that the deer is purposefully being allowed to suffer as this tends to tenderize the meat

and thus furthers the villagers’ enjoyment of the deer as their meal. It is at this point that Dillard begins to

undergo a transformation. This transformation, whose underlying reason is not yet addressed, is

conveyed through the use of a reversal. Dillard states that every so often, those relaxing would “look

beyond our shaded roof to the sunny spot where the deer was still convulsing in the dust” (63). The

contrast between the relaxing shade and the deer thrashing in the sun highlight the somewhat surreal

nature of the situation as the villagers seem to be acting much differently than would typically be

expected. Although Dillard too gazes detachedly at the deer from the shade, the continued use of words
such as “convulsing” clarify her remaining recognition of and unease regarding the deer’s suffering.

Despite the beginning transformation, the interjection of this reversal into this scene clarifies the stark

contrast between the villages’ approach to suffering as compared to that which is conventionally

accepted. As the essay continues, Dillard continues to interject reversals; however, the subject of the

reversal changes as Dillard now seems to accept the suffering as she appears to have come to terms with

the villages’ ideology. In contrast, the other North Americans who have travelled with her find her stoic

detachment unsettling as they cling to conventionally held sympathies towards the suffering of others.

She describes another instance of suffering in which a man has tragically been burned twice and

consequently finds himself questioning life and God. It is not until the conclusion of this essay that

Dillard chooses to directly address her perspective and transformation regarding the topic of suffering.

Opposition is evident as her manner of presenting the situation and her thoughts changes, now being

presented in a subjective form. This subjective approach reveals her newfound inner understanding of

the world as she comes to accept, if not appreciate, the value of suffering. Dillard asks why suffering

happens, asking “Will someone please explain…to the deer at Providencia in his dignity, what is going

on? And mail me the carbon” (66). Although she seems to recognize the value of suffering, Dillard does

not yet fully understand it as is evident by her plea to send her “the carbon” (66). Concluding the poem,

she reminisces about how she referred to the deer as “poor little thing,” only to note that she realized “at

the time it was a ridiculous thing to say” (66). This instance of opposition clarifies her transformation as

she fluctuates between wanting to control the situation and simply let go. Her ultimate subjective

statements enhance her amoral attitude as she now realizes that there is a reason for suffering and though

it may not be good or bad, it will still happen. Her acceptance of life’s mysteries conveys her willingness

to observe and accept, learning life’s lessons as she goes, even if the lesson must first expose her to

difficult situations.