During my undergraduate years as an English major, I found myself constantly exposed to narratives that included fascinating descriptions of the natural world. While this reality was interesting to me as a reader, it is also of intrigue given my life as a writer. In short, my exposure to vivid representations of the natural elements as an undergraduate led to my understanding that many readers are drawn to such depictions. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that many people participate in the outdoor world through activities like hiking or mountain climbing. Thus they are interested in seeing how the natural elements are represented textually so they can compare their empirical knowledge to the epistemological realities submitted by the writer. Additionally, when writers discuss the natural elements with creativity, stories acquire an artful and organic livelihood that appeals to the human proclivity for appreciating ingenuity. Once writers understand why illustrative depictions of the natural realm can appeal to the masses, it becomes clear why constructing narratives that center elements such as water or the sky constitutes an advantageous enterprise.
Many writers have described natural settings with the creativity I mentioned earlier. Yet when reflecting on which writers have done so with a unique and intriguing excellence, I am drawn to a short story by George Sanders entitled “Puppy.” The first paragraph reads thus:
Twice already Marie had pointed out the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn, because the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn put her in mind of a haunted house-not a haunted house she had ever actually seen but the mythical one that sometimes appeared in her mind (with adjacent graveyard and cat on a fence) whenever she saw the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect etc. etc., and she wanted to make sure that, if the kids had a corresponding mythical haunted house that appeared in their minds whenever they saw the brilliance of the etc. etc., it would come up now, so that they could all experience it together, like friends, like college friends on a road trip, sans pot, ha ha ha!
This description of the natural setting is ingenious on numerous levels, one of which is Sanders’s juxtaposition of nature and culture. This act transpires when he records Marie’s internal thoughts regarding how the brilliance of the autumnal sun reminds her of a haunted house. In addition to creating this juxtaposition, Sanders uses the power of repetition to make his description of the natural elements very primary in the mind of the reader. Indeed, his use of the phrase “the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn” three times makes the concept integral to the story’s textual development.
As made evident by the first paragraph from Sanders’s short story “Puppy,” his work includes a unique and very creative way of representing the natural elements. This ingenuity will probably catch and keep the attention of many readers. It certainly earned him a top ten spot on Richard Thomas’s list of great short stories.
Sanders’s expert use of juxtaposition and repetition are only two examples of how a writer can creatively represent the natural elements within a written work. Many others exist, and audiences who enjoy stories marked by this type of ingenuity are waiting to read such stories. Moreover, they are waiting to be written by you. Good luck!
Jocelyn Crawley holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty, and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction and Calliope.
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