“Living Like Weasels” and “I Have Been Called a Luddite”

“Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard and “I Have Been Called a Luddite” by Kurt Vonnegut, both non-fiction essays, albeit with very different topics, manage to convey the writers’ own beliefs relating to certain facets of society.  “Living Like Weasels” highlights the raw fierceness of the un-remorseful weasel, while “I Have Been Called a Luddite” demonstrates the peaceful alternative to an existence composed around technology.  Dillard and Vonnegut detail their own experiences, that are accompanied by warnings, exhortations, and reprimands directed toward the reader and society as a whole.  Though maintaining several differences throughout their non-fiction essays, Kurt Vonnegut and Annie Dillard present the importance of their unique narrators in order to ensure a more accepting and open minded reader who would be willing to heed their warnings, reprimands, and exhortations.  
Both narrators recount personal experiences in order to illustrate a different way of life, which in turn persuades the reader to welcome their exhortations and mimic their styles of living.  Kurt Vonnegut briefly begins by explaining the term ‘Luddite’, immediately followed by a habitual day in his life.  vonnegut describes his writing process, highlighting the routine by which he sent his manuscript to a typist named Carol.  These activities take place with little fanfare and very limited technology.  Vonnegut introduces (with some sarcasm) a paper clip and a manilla envelope- the only necessary tools to complete his task.  His use of language indicates how fulfilling such a simple routine was in his life.  Similarly, Annie Dillard focuses on intense language and imagery to present various anecdotes detailing the stunning ferocity of the weasels.  She writes of an acquaintance having seen the remains of a weasel’s jaw still attached to the neck of an eagle.  The practically grotesque, warrior-like attitude of the weasels in general recurs throughout each of the anecdotes Dillard includes in her essay to, like Vonnegut, add strength to their cases.  They are exhorting society to embrace life-styles that are, in most cases, the opposites of those we are comfortable with.  However, it is clear that in the lives of Dillard and Vonnegut, these lives can still be enriching.  Their anecdotes and acute language serve to draw the reader to their conduct; not only proving that a life without technology or a life like a weasel can be done, but that one can also thrive.  Their models at minimum are testimonies to their personal successes, and make their exhortations much more attractive in the eyes of the reader and society as a whole.
The authors passively characterize the narrators so the reader will receive their reprimands less defensively.  Vonnegut and Dillard treat their topics very carefully in order to avoid conflict with the reader.  Technology and doctrines prescribing the best way to live your life are sensitive subjects that typically cause a stand-off between the essayist and the reader.  That being said, their reprimands are presented in a passive and resigned manner to avoid argument, which immediately guarantees a more receptive reader.  In Dillard’s case, her motivation for becoming like a weasel seems to be an entirely personal case.  She discusses a very important moment in her life, when she spent a few intimate minutes with a weasel and afterward, how that event represented a catalyst for a new way of living.  She does not condemn readers for living otherwise, though her own fervor for “living like a weasel” suggests to the reader that perhaps they should follow suit.  By the same token, Vonnegut immediately identifies himself as someone who hates technology, but seems more resigned to a life filled with these new devices than bitter toward those who willingly use technology.  An example being when he describes himself as well as his friend Carol as being obsolete though does, in no way, blame society for having caused the near extinction of their old-fashioned habits.  He describes his joys of being able to live without these short-cuts, but does not necessarily argue with those who do.  Vonnegut’s narrator is characterized as an older gentleman, slightly bothered by society’s new trend, but not a spokesman or avid Luddite; in this way he remains passive in his affiliations.  Dillard and Vonnegut reprimand society’s valued lifestyle so discreetly that the reader would hardly notice they were being scolded.  All the more ensuring the readers come to their own conclusions as to the lives they are living, consequently preventing hostility toward the authors.
“Living Like Weasels” and “I Have Been Called a Luddite” utilize other characters in order to further contrast the speaker’s own individuality; warning readers against straying from the styles of life that Vonnegut and Dillard have described.  Vonnegut highlights his wife’s situation as a tech-savvy photographer to demonstrate how polar opposite his own opinions are.  A character so close to the narrator portraying completely different values further suggests how singular Vonnegut’s own values are.  Naming himself a Luddite, a reader would prepare for a cult of some sort to back the narrator’s claims.  Instead however, they encounter a handful of people who are used to a lifestyle that has become unnecessary- so few are those who agree with Vonnegut that his own wife is not among them.  It is in this way that Vonnegut, by pointing out the individuality of Luddites, warns readers not to follow society’s tendencies as his wife has done.  He warns them against this lifestyle through the portrayal of his wife, who does not seem to understand his views.  Dillard personifies the weasel with a shockingly advanced capacity for knowledge, and she is in awe of their lives.  She states her desire to become like them, and professes to have wanted even to fight the weasel, proving how serious her desires are; in her quest for an unabashed fighting instinct, she would even turn on the very creature who introduced this savage lifestyle to her in the first place.  The weasels are held on a pedestal to emphasize Dillard’s desires to be similar, though this way of thinking and living is so rare that it is reserved to an entirely different species.  By praising the weasels, she therefore disapproves of those who live differently; she warns society against passively living their lives.  Vonnegut and Billard compare themselves to others to represent not only how unique their own beliefs are, but to warn readers against the alternative ways of living that are less satisfying in their opinions, ergo influencing the reader’s intrigue toward the authors’ beliefs.
“Living Like Weasels” and “I Have Been Called a Luddite” are two examples of essays that provide warnings, exhortations, and reprimands through a unique narrator’s point of view.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s