How Annie Dillard’s ‘Living like Weasels’ Exemplifies the Theme of Freedom and Independence

Published: 2021-07-11 16:50:06
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In her creative non-fiction literature, ‘Living like Weasels’ Annie Dillard concentrates on explaining what influences the choices that weasels make with regards to how they live their lives. Dillard states that “A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks” (Dillard 1). Dillard expresses that weasels are free and that the only thing that influences the decisions that they make is instinct. For instance, “Obedient to instinct, he bites his prey at the neck” “…and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck” (Dillard 1).
It is evident that Dillard is fascinated by how the weasels live. She points out that weasels are basically free, doing what they want, when they want and how they want, whether or not they conform to any norms. For instance, Dillard describes how sometimes weasels stay in their dens for up to 2 days without leaving, or how they can at times kill more bodies than they can eat (Dillard 1). This shows that when translated into human life, the weasels can be seen as being free willed, always doing what they feel regardless of the impact of their actions.
Dillard expresses her admiration of the weasel by constantly saying that what the weasel is thinking is a mystery (Dillard 1). She shows that she would love to be unpredictable, but this would be contrary to what the society expects because people in the society live within the constraints of specific laws and regulations, which make them predictable. She even uses the story of a man who shot a flying eagle to influence the audience to admire the weasel (Dillard 1). She does this when she says that the eagle had a dry skull of a weasel which appeared to have been defending himself against the eagle (Dillard 1). This shows that the weasels are independent and resilient.
Dillard uses imagery to capture the attention of the audiences. She states that “Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key” (Dillard 1). This is to create curiosity about what was happening. To further show that the weasel is free, Dillard says that the mind of the weasel is blank, something that she found out when their brains were interlocked, “Brains are private places, muttering through unique and secret tapes-but the weasel and I both plugged into another tape simultaneously, for a sweet and shocking time” (Dillard 1). This can be interpreted to mean that human beings are not free because they usually think of a lot of different things at any given moment. Their minds are full and that is why they are not free. She seeks her freedom and understanding by going to Hollis Pond, “not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it” (Dillard 2).
From the above perspectives, it is arguable that freedom can be achieved when people stop relying so much on reasoning, and start relying on instinct in the same way that the weasel does. The realization that she came to is that the best life would be ‘living without bias or motive’ (Dillard 2). She claims that the way that the weasel subsists is the right way that people should live, always alert, but not focused on remembering anything. Being alert according to Dillard will guarantee that people are more aware and appreciative of their lives. This is however limited by the fact that we live by choice and not by necessity as the weasel does (Dillard 2). Dillard also concludes that living involves wanting to continuously live not so as to fulfill motives, but to live for the sake of living. These are part of the attribute that express that people are not free, meaning that they do not enjoy life.
In the essay, Dillard succumbs to the notion that the wild life is more attractive and fulfilling that the conscious life which is characterized by choices that are influenced by bias. More so, one person cannot live by choice as well as by instinct (Dillard 3). She is however interested in challenging the norm by experimenting on a life without choices. She believes that logic acts as barriers to living quality lives. She however acknowledges that it is not practical for both types of lives to exist at the same time (Dillard 3). It is with this in mind that she tries to reconcile the freedom that is experienced by the weasel as a result of instinct, with the choices that people make. She asserts that consciousness is what dictates the choices that people make, and that consciousness in humans is a core instinct because without consciousness people will be isolated and detachment from the society makes people vulnerable (Dillard 2). Therefore, consciousness and by extension choices, are indeed necessary for human life.
Despite acknowledging the necessity of choice, Dillard still expresses regret that she did not utilize her opportunity to be free. As she puts it, she did not go for the ‘neck and throat’ (Dillard 2). She declares that she missed the chance that she once had to achieve independence. This aspect is however in relation to her following her dreams. She therefore expresses that following one’s calling can be equated to the achievement of freedom.

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