Jest and Earnest essay
by David Woolf
Annie Dillard's "Jest and Earnest" is a complete contradiction. It compares three different points of views. The title itself is a juxtaposition, the word jest has to do with fun, and earnest is a sort of conservative seriousness. Dillard tries to convey her beliefs on creation and how even seemingly complete opposites have something in common. She depicts for us a vivid description of an occurrence and then justifies that occurrence. The imagery in her essay moves from a depiction of an atrocious act, to a description of beauty, and finally to a vision of both.
From the get go, Dillard describes to us a scene in "jest" with frogs of all sorts laying in different positions. Some are above, some are below, and still others are right along the waters edge. Her essay progresses towards a more "earnest" situation where a frog is violently eaten by a giant water bug.
She vividly describes the gruesome meal. The giant water bug first grips the frog and then devours it by liquefying it's organs Using diction that would even make the hardest of biologists tremble, she is able to vividly describe to us the macabre attack and eventual consumption of the frog. She then justifies the act by stating that other carnivorous animals devour their prey in similar or even more vicious manners. Life is hypocritical she says because life itself depends upon the consumption of food yet survival depends on not becoming that food.
Dillard then moves on to an act of beauty depicted by a mockingbird. The "jest" action of the mockingbird making a straight vertical decent from the roof gutter of a four story building was a beautiful, spontaneous act. Again, Dillard vividly describes the actions taken by the...