The passage I will be examining today is taken from the essay “The Deer at Providencia” which is part of a collection of essays entitled “teaching a stone to talk” by Annie Dillard. The extract consists of thirty lines from page 83 and I must highlight that it is the last piece of the essay, hence, it is assumed that this extract will conclude a certain theme. This essay follows similar characteristics to those exhibited in the whole book which is beginning with a description of a specific aspect of nature and then becoming deeper until the highest questions are asked. As I mentioned previously, Dillard begins this essay with a natural aspect, which is the vivid description of a deer suffering and struggling to escape from the rope that had captured it in a village named Providencia. This observation is deliberately the name of the title, the deer at providencia.
She talks in first person, as she does in most of her essays, and trhough her objective and subjective detailed writing of the deer´s suffering, we can almost put ourselves in that moment, however, her emotional response shocks us immediately since her tone through out the essay doesn´t show much emotions and sympathy for the deer´s suffering, however I wouldn´t have been able to be as detached as the Annie Dillard was in that moment. She also mentions another case of suffering where a man has been seriously burned for a second time and her tone changes as we see that she feels more sympathy and compassion for the suffering of this man, than for the deer. In this particular extract, she generalizes the man´s story by stating that most men who suffer severe burns usually commit suicide because the suffering after the incident is unbearable to them, which she describes accurately using a hyperbole , “Medicine cannot ease their pain, drugs just leak away, soaking the sheets, because there is no skin to hold them in.
The people just lie there and weep”. Through describing this man´s suffering, the extract makes us question the irregular distribution of suffering? The man and his wife´s testimony, the unfairness in suffering is highlighted. Furthermore, when Annie Dillard states that she reads the whole clipping again every morning about the burned man, we can see that this emotional response is much more sympathetic than the one she shows us when she describes the deer´s suffering. Then by asking what is going on with the suffering that neither the man nor the deer could escape suffering, she questions again the distribution of suffering and emphasizes the unfairness in this. It must be noted that there is a key difference between Alan McDonald and the deer due to the emotional response shown by Annie Dillard.
The unsurprised and calm response of the author when she sees the deer suffering shows that she isn´t surprised about an animal´s suffering because she knows who made the deer suffer and it´s us. However she is surprised with Alan McDonald´s suffering because she doesn´t understand who causes this suffering, is it God, and if it is Him, why would he allow such suffering? The essay concludes by narrating her ridiculous response when she sees the deer again, which is practicing her Spanish, the passage demonstrates her lack of sympathy towards this deer´s suffering which I have previously explained. Overall, this essay seems to be about the mysteries of the inevitability of suffering and the unfairness in this suffering and who chooses who will suffer more than others.