Last Updated 19 Apr 2023

Once More to the Lake, by E.B White

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“Once More to the Lake,” by E.B White is a short story that provokes reflection by exploring familial relationships and the human relation to time. It narrates the tale of a man who spent his childhood summers with his family at a rented lake property in Maine. After years apart from the sacred place, he decides to return with his son.

Once More to the Lake

To the narrator's relief, the lake and its surroundings appear to be the same, at least on the surface. However, he overlooks the decades that have passed and refuses to acknowledge that there are differences in the community compared to when he went as a boy. His denial translates to the reader who is able to connect with and view the tale through the eyes of the narrator. In "Once More to the Lake, "White utilizes diction, ethos, and repetition to establish time as an antagonist, which provokes nostalgia in his readers.

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Prior to his arrival, the narrator has a negative mindset about the lake, believing that it has drastically changed for the worse. He writes, “I wondered how time would have marred this unique, this holy spot" (White 1). White structures the sentence so that time is responsible for altering the holy spot. This personification conveys time as a character, as its actions affect something else. By using the word “marred” he infers that time will have damaged his sacred place.

The alternative words that could have preceded "holy spot" range from "improved" to "changed." With this word choice, the writer establishes time as an enemy. It is not something that will contribute to his well being, rather, it will hurt him. Instead of taking a more positive outlook on what returning to the lake could bring, he presumes that it will be a bad experience, simply because time has passed and the lake has presumably changed.

In spite of his presumption, once he arrives with his son, the narrator observes that there is minimal change in the patterns of foliage and ripples on the water. As the narrator continues to recount his venture, he notes that “there had been no years”(2), then that “there [has] been no passage of time”(2,3).

He makes this remark about varied situations from a bather in the lake, to the selections of pie at the farmhouse. These phrases repeat a total of five times throughout the short story. The narrator repeats these phrases as a coping mechanism, for he denies the passage of time. He repeats the phrase in attempts to convince himself of its validity. Whether it's because he does not want to admit to aging, or because he does not want to see his son grow up, or perhaps because he misses his family vacations.

He does not want this sacred place to change because he constantly expresses that it seems untouched. He only notes the similarities between the lake and refuses to acknowledge any differences. However, if he were to remove himself from the minor details, like the pie and the lake bather he would realize that the lake has changed. While its character may remain the same, numerous families have come and gone, all of whom have different perceptions and thoughts about the location.

The country had advanced in terms of technology, which affects everything. Despite the pie flavors remaining the same, new memories have been made there, by different people. The lake has been redefined and will continue to change as time progresses, despite the narrator's rejection of this fact. In emphasis of his denial, when recounting his childhood, the narrator explains, “We returned summer after summer--always on August 1st for one month”(1).

This is one of the opening phrases of the entire story which immediately emphasizes a certain rigidness in routine due to its structure. It almost seems militant--as though the vacation is some sort of obligation, not a leisurely getaway with the family. The repetition of "summer after summer” informsa reader that this was an annual vacation.

It was a tradition of both comfort and necessity. Articulated by his obsession with the timing and scheduling of this trip, the narrator finds comfort in routine. Furthermore, the specified date of “August 1st" permits one to assume that if the vacation had any other date, it would not be the same as it usually is, and therefore not as special in the eyes of the narrator.

There was no room for error in his childhood vacations. He then mentions the exact length of each vacation. Again, the author utilizes personal pronouns which places the reader directly into the mind of the narrator. The use of repetition exposes the narrator's desire to avoid change, which then leads a reader to think the same way. He wants his childhood vacation to stay consistent, even decades later when he returns to the lake as an adult.

White writes in an anecdotal tone to guide the reader to view time as an enemy. He opens with silly tales about ringworm and dad flipping a canoe. A reader can easily relate the experiences of the narrator to his or her own family vacations. Additionally, he uses personal pronouns like "we" or "I,” which enable readers to easily insert their own characters. The narrator of "Once More to the Lake" views time through a negative lens which alters the reader's opinion.

White's use of ethos appeals to his audience, which provides a direct avenue for nostalgia and memories. It stimulates thought about family vacations and sacred places and how time affects the two, which further engages the reader because it proposes a personal connection to the story. White’s piece is thought provoking through its applicability.

He writes a story that appeals to a wide audience on an emotional level and strategically repeats phrases that embody the denial of time. Time becomes an antagonist in “Once More to the Lake," for not only does it possess control of the narrator, but it works against him and his motives and desires. White's piece provokes nostalgia and reminiscence in the mind of a reader. He also installs a certain level of fear of time in his readers, which ultimately teaches them to live in the present and cherish moments.

Once More to the Lake by E B Whites Overview

An Analysis of E. B Whites, “Once More to the Lake” In E. B Whites essay, “Once More to the Lake” he reflects on his summer outing with his son. Throughout the trip, memories of his childhood, long forgotten, resurface themselves as he experiences the same vacation with his own son. These memories create in him a feeling as if time has not changed and that he is reliving his old days. His father used to take him to the same camping spot as a boy.

He was certain that there would be changes since then, but on arrival his senses are awakened and old feelings revived as he takes in the unchanged sights, sounds, and smells of the peaceful lake in Maine. The overall theme of this story is the acceptance of aging and the passing of time. The passage of time throughout the story has a relentless hold on White, he struggles throughout as reality becomes harder and harder for him to grasp. The author incorporates many literary devices which add to his overall vivid descriptions and comparisons, a few which include: imagery, tone, and symbolism.

By these techniques the narrator is able to set the reader’s imagination on fire! Throughout this literary work detailed comparisons are blended in as he remembers his own vacation to the lake as a young boy. These comparisons make it hard for him to face the fact that he has aged very much since that time. The feelings and emotions these reincarnated memories create bring about sensations of a “dual existence” (25) in White. The narrators detailed diction in describing these emotions and senses that are being brought back and relived, arouse similar feelings in the reader.

It makes us empathize for the now, grown man. He remembers such things as the smell of his bedroom, “picking up a bait box, or a table fork” (25), as well as many other intricate details. Everything seems to bring him back to the cherished memories he had stored for so many years of him camping on the lake with his own father. The imagery used in the essay enhances the overall experience. Another important technique which adds to this story is how the author meticulously compares the past with the present. For the duration of the story White repeats the same phrase, “there has been no years” (25, 26).

He feels as if time is at a standstill. The tone that the speaker incorporates, works to bring out deep emotions in the reader. We feel for him as he describes this, “utterly enchanted sea” (26). The reverence he has for the, “peace, and goodness, and jollity” (27) of this special place reveals itself in multiple occasions of the story. He upholds this seemingly sanctuary in the utmost respect as it holds the memories of him and his father. In the course of time, this dwelling place of remembrance will rebirth into future generations.

Something’s that have changed about the place, bring white back to the reality of time and aging. He speaks of how he came upon an old path used by horse drawn carriages back in his day, it used to have three tracks, but now that the automobile was invented only two were seem, etched in the dirt, tire tracks from the cars passing to and from. He states that for a moment he, “missed terribly the middle alternative” (26). Although this actuality is brought up, White pushes it aside and adopts his dual existence willingly.

He continues to imagine that he is his father, and his son, is in fact him, he states, “which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants” (28). White notices another difference, in this otherwise, so familiar place, it was the sound of outboard motors, “unfamiliar nervous sound” (27). They are sounds that bring him out of his dream world; he is distraught over these changes. This makes us believe that the very thought of these dissimilarities were unbearable for him to cope with. He was in denial of the fact that time had passed.

The symbolism used in this essay is brought about in a clear manner when White describes the thunderstorm. This storm is used to represent a sort of rebirth. The rain comes and there is a sudden sense that there is a, “return of light, and hope, and spirits” (29). At this point he begins to see the trip in a whole new perspective or “light” (29). He is hit with a sudden realization that though everything seems just the same, he can make the connection that this is a new generation and new memories are soon to be fabricated, “linking the generations in a strong, indestructible chain” (29).

In the end he is forced to face the absoluteness of time. As he watches his son slip into his cold, wet swimming trunks he once again imagines it is himself then he is suddenly hit with a, “chill of death” (29). He realizes that switching places with his father also means he is going to die. He is brought to the fact that much time has passed. This leads to his concluding acceptance of his own mortality. He wanted so dearly to hold onto the memories of old and never acknowledge the fact that the times had changed, yet deep down he knew that this would be impossible.

In the end White embraced the process of aging and found the good that could stem from it; but it was clear that throughout the narrative the overall theme was his struggle in the acceptance of aging and the passing of time. He concludes that eventually he can use these memories and experiences to connect with future generations of his son, and furthermore his son’s son. He did not have to hold onto the false idea that aging was a curse but he was able to let go and take it as more of a blessing.

He would be able to pass these memories on for years and years to come. People should certainly accept the fact that everyone ages and time goes by quick. Every new moment counts and wonderful memories, experiences, and also wisdom can ultimately be cherished and passed on to further generations of people through these durations of time. Abraham Lincoln once said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”, this quote rings true in the inspirational story, “Once More to the Lake”.

Once More to the Lake

During his vacation White notices that although the arrival to the lake was deferent, as well as the boats which were on the lake, the lake Itself had not changed at all. The commute to the lake had changed from what E. B. White had originally experienced as a child. The trip to the lake was now a completely new experience. Originally, getting to the lake was a long, highly anticipated Journey, starting with the train station and loading luggage onto horse buggies which would take them on a ten mile trip leading to the lake. The anticipation would grow as the carriage got closer to the lake.

Coming over the last hill to see the lake and other campers cheering for your arrival was full of excitement. Now, there was no train station and there was no carriage ride. The excitement had been diminished by the newer paved road which led to within one half mile of the lake. The road now was the cause of campers to pull right up to their camp and unload in a quick amount of time and without being detected by fellow campers. Another change which had transpired was the updates of the camp Itself. The path to the lake was not the only one that had changed through the years.

Walking three tracks in the road, but two. There used to be a middle track that was made by the horses pulling the carriages of people to dinner at the restaurant. Now, the path no longer was one for horses. Also, the store's parking lot used to be dirt and gravel, but is now paved for customers driving their cars to buy "manufactured drinks" rather than the root beer and birch beer White would buy when he was a child. Change was expected by E. B. White, but the one change he did not enjoy was the motor boats cruising across the water of the lake.

Their newer designs with the outboard motors were unsettling to White and disturbed the peacefulness of the lake. The older boats had an inboard motor which was a much softer, relaxing sound which aided in the relaxation of a summer vacation. Even the way the boats were operated had changed as well. The older boats were not equipped with reverse, so landing the boat at the dock required a more sense of confidence, so you didn't crash into the dock with a speedy approach. Though there were many changes, one thing had not changed and that is the lake itself.

Through all the changes E. B. White still managed to grasp the feeling that time had not really passed by because the lake remained the same to him. It is the one thing that kept people returning. The smells of the lake, the activities done by people on the lake, the fish that swam in its water, the people and the people too all had remained as White once knew it. He is fishing with his son at one point and a dragonfly lands on the end of his fishing pole and he describes that moment as if no mime had passed since he went fishing with his own dad as a boy.

Even the paddle boat they were fishing from was the same color and had the same details as he remembered as if it were the exact boat he paddled in before. One of the afternoons of their week-long stay a thunderstorm came and sent everyone returning to their camp. There White watched the storm come in Just as he had before. It was a fascinating spectacle for him to see the lightning, hear the thunder, and watch the rain fall on the lake as the storm moved on. As the storm left, people would come ace out to the lake in their swimsuits to swim in the rain.

Writing Quality

Grammar mistakes

F (43%)


A (100%)

Redundant words

F (53%)




F (57%)

Total mark


Related Questions

on Once More to the Lake, by E.B White

What changed in Once More to the Lake?
In Once More to the Lake, the narrator reflects on his childhood memories of visiting the lake with his father. He notices how the lake has changed over the years, and how his own life has changed as well. He realizes that he is now the father figure, and his son is experiencing the same things he did as a child.
How does Once More to the Lake relate to identity?
Once More to the Lake is a story about a father and son who return to a lake they had visited when the father was a child. The story explores the father's identity as he reflects on his past and his relationship with his son. Through his memories, the father is able to connect with his past self and gain a better understanding of his identity.
What is the main point of Once More to the Lake?
The main point of Once More to the Lake is to explore the idea of time passing and how it affects our memories and experiences. The narrator reflects on his childhood memories of visiting the lake with his father and how those memories are still vivid in his mind, despite the passage of time. He also reflects on how his own son is now experiencing the same lake in the same way he did as a child.
What is the message of Once More to the Lake by E.B. White?
The main message of Once More to the Lake by E.B. White is that time passes quickly and life is fleeting. White reflects on his own life and how it has changed since his childhood, and he realizes that he is now the same age as his father was when he was a child. He also reflects on the beauty of nature and how it remains unchanged despite the passing of time.

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