Response to “Definitions of Earthly Things” by Bernardino de Sahagun

Response to “Definitions of Earthly Things” by Bernardino de Sahagun, The Lost Origins of the Essay

The tension is man vs nature and the essay is separated into different parts under various subheadings like forest, a mountain, mirror stone, etc. Man or human kind serves as the protagonist while nature is the antagonist. For example, the forest is described as a desolate place where there are no people and nothing is edible. Man has the tendency to view the natural world as separate from him and society and this essay is great at illustrating that. There is no traditional dialogue but there are instances of first person. The essay has numerous settings, all of which are elements of the natural world. The theme or the moral of the story is that man has a lot to fear about nature but that he should nevertheless confront and become one with it.

The essay works by being way ahead of its time in its approach to creative nonfiction. However, while this approach is creative it does not work particularly well because it makes the essay appear disjointed. The cross into fiction is effective and thoughtful. For example, “A Mushroom: It is round, large, like a severed head.” This sentence, and others like it, make me think of an encyclopedia entry turned on its itself.

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