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The Serpents of Paradise Essay Sample

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The Serpents of Paradise Essay Sample

Edward Abbey shows a great respect for nature, elevating it perhaps above men in his essay “The Serpents of Paradise”. He does this on many levels and in several ways. His writing shows awe for nature in his very descriptions. The joy he takes in nature shows itself also in the powerful imagery he uses. It is a very raw and emotive feeling he projects, while at the same time in a rational scientific light. His love for the natural world and his elevation of it is powerful and stunning.

The writer’s diction shows a man who finds the world around him amazing and wishes to understand it in a better fashion. When he describes his first encounters with a snake at his home, he uses several terms of endearment such as “fellow creature” (p. 614) and “Cousin”(abbey, 615). Abbey maintains the act of killing the snake is comparing it to “murder” (abbey, 614) and an affront to morality. The writer describes the birds’ song and his compares it to the flute. His word choice reveals a great love for nature and almost a form of worship.

In addition, his word choice reveals a need to rationalize the world around him through science. His use of the scientific name of various creatures such as the diamondback, “Crolatus atrox”(abbey, 614), and the Gopher snake, “Drymarchon corais couperi” (abbey, 615), shows his deep need to objectively understand nature. Abbey states at one quite clear moment in a clear rational manner that he “is not giving human motives to his snake and bird acquaintances” (Abbey, 617). This again shows a man who has his wording designed to be rational and logical.

The imagery the writer provides continues this sense of elevation. He describes the canyon itself as a powerful entity to be in feared and respected. He describes it as having power over humanity. In addition, the “dance” of the snakes in which he lowers himself in order to see the snakes as they raise themselves higher is an extremely poignant example of his powerful imagery. When the snakes discover him, he describes their charge saying that it creates a fear deep within him. The imagery is at once powerful, stunning, and a further elevation of nature above man.

Although at times he claims to not be personifying the creatures of the natural world, he repeatedly does this. He describes the doves as crying out for each other, the pinyon jays as “gregarious” (abbey, 613), and the ravens as having “statements of smug satisfaction” (abbey, 613). However, a more apparent one is his personification of the canyon itself, as a menacing figure with a “Demented howl” (abbey, 613). The most significant, however, is his personification of the snakes. He portrays the rattlesnake as a brother and a stubborn and vengeful figure. Abbey’s portrayal of the gopher snake is much like that of a friend, someone he gets along well with, and to which he has a close association. He describes its motion in the mating sequence as a “pas de deux”(abbey, 616), literally translated, a dance for two. He also describes himself, on two occasions, as a voyeur spying on two “lovers” (abbey, 616 & 617). His personification of nature allows the further elevation and adoration of nature.

It is obvious the writer has shown a deep reverence for nature. He mentions a Dutch philosopher by the name of Spinoza, this is important because of Spinoza’s belief in pantheism. This shows a continuing elevation toward the greatness of a god. In conclusion, Abbey in “The serpents of paradise” not only shows an adoration of nature but an elevation of it, perhaps to the level of a god.

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