Underland Themes & Motifs

Robert Macfarlane
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Anthropormorphism

MacFarlane often uses personification to describe the landscapes in which he travels in Underland. MacFarlane’s use of the device differs from other nature writers because he extends human characteristics to even ice and rock. For example, an ash tree has a “hollow heart,” according to MacFarlane (3). Limestone is the “liveliest, queerest” rock MacFarlane knows, he says (32). He gives the characteristics of memory and song to ice. He writes, “And it sings, the moulin sings, with a high, steady, neck-tingling cry” (358). MacFarlane’s descriptions of non-human beings are eerie and curious enough to help the reader remember that the consciousnesses he is describing are beyond human understanding.

Describing nature with human characteristics is common in the British and American nature writing tradition, but MacFarlane reveals that he is suspicious of its use. “Lying there among the trees, despite a learned wariness towards anthropomorphism, I find it...

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This section contains 1,768 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Underland Study Guide
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