The Concept of Nature in Literature: Analysis of Doris Lessing’s “The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange”


Essay, 2009
16 Pages, Grade: 2
Anonymous

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Views of Nature in “The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange”
2.1. Area One: The Scenic Sublime
2.2. Area Two: The Countryside
2.3. Area Three: The Domestic Picturesque

3. Conclusion

4. Works Cited
4.1. Primary Texts
4.2. Secondary Literature
4.3. Other Important Titles

1. Introduction

Ecocriticism is still on its academic margins. Nevertheless, depending on the text one deals with, nature plays a vital role in understanding and analyzing literature.1 The present essay focuses on the views of nature in the short story “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” by Doris Lessing.2

The Dictionary defines nature as “everything that exists in the world independently of people, such as plants and animals, earth and rocks, and the weather”3. Yet, in order to analyze nature in its literary context, it is important to point out that culture has a great impact on nature and its understanding.4 To analyze the view of nature, it is vital to recognize that the nature-culture distinction is not always absolute and clear cut.5 There is nature, and culture, and states partaking in both. Barry introduces the “outdoor environment [...] [as a] series of adjoining and overlapping areas which move gradually form nature to culture”6. To answer the question how nature is displayed within the story and hence to be able to draw a conclusion from these particular views of nature, different areas will be used to classify nature in its cultural context. Taking Barry’s classification7 into account, the view of nature in the story “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange”8 will in the following be associated with three distinctive areas. Area one is referred to as the scenic sublime. It includes, for instance, forests, mountains and rivers. Moreover, there is area two, the countryside, which implies hills, fields, woods, etc. The greatest impact of culture can be found in area three, the domestic picturesque. It describes such things as parks and gardens.

2. Views of Nature in “The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange”

2.1. Area One: The Scenic Sublime

The environment described in the story which can be classified as area one, considers basically nature beyond the farm and its land. Furthermore, as already pointed out, this environment distinguishes itself from the farmland due to its features (mountains, rivers, etc.). This kind of nature is not at some place far away, but can be seen from the farm house: “[...] in that green-crowded gully were suddenly the tropics: palm trees, a slow brown river that eddied into reaches of marsh or curved round belts of reeds twelve feet high.”9

One aspect of this environment in the story is its hostile, vast character. It appears as if the “tall shadowing bushes [...] [were] filled with unnameable phantoms”10. It seems to be dangerous to get in contact with this particular kind of nature: “If they had taken the wrong turning, to the river, they might be bogged in mud to the axles. Down there, in the swampy heat, they could be bitten by mosquitoes and then.”11

She might at this moment be lying with a broken arm or leg; she might be pushing her way through grass higher than her head, stumbling over roots and rocks. She might be screaming for help somewhere for fear of wild animals, for if she crossed the valley into the hills there were leopards, lions, wild dogs.12

And the river is not only inhabited by crocodiles but coming in contact with the water, one can also get Bilharzia, a life threatening tropical disease.13 The river isn’t referred to as a nice place rather than a “steamy bath of vapours, heat, smells”14. Overall, the environment outside the farm seems to be an “unpleasant place”15. Only watched from the distance, this environment has its bright sides. Then one can see the “exquisite brushwork of trees on the lower slopes”16 or cloud-formations which tower “into a brilliant cleansed sky”17.

In contrast to this point of view, there is another description of nature in its scenic sublime context. Nature is viewed as a rather amazing, astonishing and friendly environment: “Just think how many millions of years it must have taken for the water to wear down the rock so deep.”18 The water in the river is described as being clear. One “can see right under the rocks. It is a lovely pool”19. There are not only fish (barble) and flowers (waterlilies), but also “a kingfisher, and water-birds, all colours. They are so pretty”20. Hence, the smell is noticed as “lovely”21. Furthermore, this environment can be experienced first hand: It can easily be reached by foot and one can enjoy sitting on the edge of a big rock, dangle the legs in the water and fish.22

2.2. Area Two: The Countryside

Considering that the borders between the different areas are not clear cut, it is not easy to distinguish between area one and two and the reference towards these areas made in the story. Basically, this paragraph takes nature, as it can be found right next to the farmhouse and on its land (apart from the garden), into account. Therefore, it includes parts of the bush land as well as agricultural land.

The reader is confronted with a distinctive point of view which characterizes the bush land that surrounds the farm house, as a hostile place. It is described as an “austere wind-bitten high veld”23 from where a smell comes towards the house after something had died out there.24 There are “sparse stumpy trees [...] with deep and black shadows”25. Hence, one tends to feel uncomfortable in this environment: “[...] moved through the pits of shadow, gaining each stretch of clear moonlight with relief [,..].”26 It seems to be in one’s best interest not to get into physical contact with this environment. Not only is it inhabited by mice and cockroaches, but one could also walk unwittingly into a spider web.27

An additional view and aspect of nature is presented to the reader. Even though the story only provides indirect information about the farm being used as agricultural land, one can assume that a (great) part of the land has been cultivated. This becomes obvious, considering that the farming became too successful to be handled by only one person.28 Nature in this context appears as a condition that is used and changed for a certain purpose. This includes, for instance, cutting trees and bushes, plowing and planting seeds or fencing a part of the land. All changes are due to the intention to get something out of nature and hence to “harvest nature’s crops” like corn and meat.

2.3. Area Three: The Domestic Picturesque

In the story farming is just one way of cultivating land and using it. Another one is to create an environment and “built” nature that suites one’s expectations merely for pleasure purposes. The reader is confronted with this kind of nature when it comes to the garden that is attached to the farm house: “[...] inside the fence were two acres of garden [...]. And what a garden!”29 There are “fountains, sending up their vivid showers of spray, there the cool mats of waterlilies, under which the coloured fishes slipped, there the irises, sunk in the green turf.”30 Furthermore, it includes a rose garden with wide green lawns.31 A “shaded bench”32 is placed within this cultivated nature. The garden is certainly not the kind of nature that would exist without human influence. It takes a great deal of effort to create such a “highly-cultivated patch of luxuriant growth”33. It was created “over years of toil”34. But even after it has been finished it needs constant maintenance. It needs to be gardened.35 An even greater obstruction is the fact that the south-African climate does not provide enough rain for roses and other plants that grow within the garden. Hence, the rose garden with its wide green lawns had to be “water sprayed all the year round”36. “Her water-garden was an extravagance, for pumping of the water from the river cost a great deal of money.”37

The garden, does not only distinguish itself from the rest of the environment that surrounds the farm, but there are also clear cut borders between the garden and the less cultivated nature. A fence surrounds the garden.38 This fence makes it obvious where the cultivated land strip begins and where it ends. Even natural landmarks appear as if they were borders. At the spot where a rocky shelf thrusts forward over the gulf, he ground drops “hundreds of feet sharply to the river”39.

[...]


1 Peter Barry, “Ecocriticism,” Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002) 248.

2 Doris Lessing, “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange,” This Was the Old Chief’s Country: Volume One of Doris Lessing’s Collected African Stories (London: Michael Joseph rpt., 1973) 64-88.

3 “Nature,” Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture, 3rd ed. 2005.

4 Comp. Kate Soper, What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the Non-Human (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995).

5 Comp. Barry “Ecocriticism” 255.

6 Barry “Ecocriticism” 255.

7 Comp. Barry “Ecocriticism” 255.

8 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 64-88.

9 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

10 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 64.

11 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 72.

12 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 84.

13 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

14 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

15 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

16 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

17 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 72.

18 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

19 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

20 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

21 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80.

22 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 80

23 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

24 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 70.

25 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

26 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

27 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

28 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 66.

29 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

30 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 79.

31 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

32 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

33 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 85.

34 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

35 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 77.

36 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

37 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

38 Comp. Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 68.

39 Lessing “The De Wets come to Kloof Grange” 71.

Excerpt out of 16 pages

Details

Title
The Concept of Nature in Literature: Analysis of Doris Lessing’s “The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange”
College
University of Münster
Grade
2
Year
2009
Pages
16
Catalog Number
V146783
ISBN (eBook)
9783640576906
ISBN (Book)
9783640577132
File size
448 KB
Language
English
Tags
Doris Lessing, Interpretation, Concept of Nature, Literature, Analysis, The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2009, The Concept of Nature in Literature: Analysis of Doris Lessing’s “The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange”, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/146783

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