Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stickeen, the "little adventurer"

This is unrelated to my post, but somebody just showed me this video.  Check it out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U3C799_ruzQ

As I read the scene when Stickeen is stuck on the other side of the glacier, I started to realize that Stickeen is the most sympathetic "character" that we've read about so far.  Stickeen's "moaning and wailing"actually made my stomach hurt with worry.  Perhaps this is because, even though Muir describes Stickeen as a capable "little adventurer," his still seems defenseless and child-like.  Unlike the men and women's of previous narratives, Stickeen's thoughts and motives cannot be relayed to us through dialogue.  In some ways, this makes Stickeen more like-able because it is difficult for the reader to find fault in him.  Though Stuir personifies Stickeen, writing of "His looks and tone of voice," he is not described in the same way that a man would be.  For instance, Stuir writes, "The pitiful wanderer just stood there in the wind, drenched and blinking, saying doggedly, 'Where though goest I will go.'"  Here Muir portrays Stickeen as exhibiting a child-like dependency and loyalty.  This causes the reader to think of Stickeen as totally innocent and to feel fond and protective of the dog.

On another note, I was surprised by Muir's descriptions of nature.  I would expect Muir, as the founder of the Sierra Club, to focus more on the fragility of nature.  Instead, Muir, like the other authors we've read, describes nature as a powerful (and at times malevolent) force: "Nature, it seems, was at the bottom of the affair, and she gains her ends with dogs as well as with men, making us do as she likes, shoving and pulling us along her ways, however rough, all but killing us at times in getting her lessons driven hard home."  Muir seems to share a perspective similar to that of Jamling Norgay: Muir personifies nature just as Norgay personifies Mount Everest, and both men present these entities as characters in the texts.  These "characters" seem to act on their own volition, and they ultimately have a reason for their actions.  Muir writes that nature "all but kill[s] us at times in getting her lessons driven hard home."  So, was there a specific lesson learned that night?  Perhaps a lesson about camaraderie and co-dependency? The value of having a companion versus solo adventures?


  1. Along with Stickeen's inability to convey emotion through dialogue, Muir explicitly framed the dog's emotion through his "moaning and wailing" and the like. I similarly feel most sympathetic toward Stickeen, although probably simply because he is our first nonhuman character and certainly conveys the innocence and fragility of a child. However, I recognize that much of this emotion comes simply from Muir's exaggerated depiction of the dog. I find Muir's commentary on the powerful forces of nature fitting with his preservation initiatives, as power warrants respect and consequent maintenance and protection from human destruction. Although not stated in the text, I bet Muir also found various aspects of nature fragile and fleeting. I particularly enjoyed reading a story written by a renowned environmentalist, as opposed to a climber.

  2. I think that Muir's description of Nature as a powerful force rather than frail and fragile is an excellent technique for the world of conservation. Instead of portraying the natural world as childlike, he makes it clear than the natural world is equal to us, just as capable of strength and beauty as we are. By making nature seem like a powerful equal, he sets up a precedent of respect.