Nature inA Mirror Has Two Faces: Connecting with Our Animal Nature inI remember watching nature shows on television andseeing natural predation. There on the screen lions stalk,chase, kill, and eat their prey. A true vision of animalnature. Humans are also animals, therefore, possessinganimal nature.
This animal nature can be witnessed everyfall as thousands of hunters across the United States forgeinto the woods to stalk, kill, and eat their prey. Mosthunters even display the heads of their prey in their livingrooms as a testament to their animal nature. Ed Gentry also touches his animal nature in JamesDickey’s novel Deliverance. One weekend, Ed along withthree friends, Bobby, Lewis, and Drew decides to canoe downthe Cahulawassee river not knowing what trials laid ahead. Drew is killed, Bobby sodomized, Lewis disabled, and Edseverely wounded. Ed stalks and kills a man in order tosurvive; and through Ed’s need to survive in the wilderness,he touches the animal nature within him.
Ed goes through life aimlessly. Eventhough he has awife, a boy, and his own business, Ed has no direction, nopurpose. Life is boring. Ed’s only break from normal lifeis the occasional excursions that he takes with his goodfriend Lewis. The first inclination of what Ed needs to becomplete is while laying out a photo shoot for a Kitt’nBritches ad.
As Ed surveys the model, he looks into her eyeThere was a peculiar spot, a kind of tan slice, inher left eye, and it hit me with, I knew rightaway, strong powers; it was not only recallable,but would come back of itself….and the sight ofthat went through me, a deep and complex malethrill, as if something had touched me in theWas this part of Ed’s animal nature showing through? TheEd, Lewis, Drew, and Bobby leave for the river.
Lewisand Ed in one car, and Bobby and Drew in another. As Lewisand Ed are driving, Ed presents his theory on life– theI’ll tell you. Sliding is living antifriction. Or, no, sliding is living by antifriction.
It isfinding a modest thing you can do, and thengreasing that thing. On both sides. It isThis is how Ed lived, without any connection to the animalThe second day on the river, the wilderness revealedits powerful nature. Bobby was sodomized by two mountainmen, Lewis had his leg severely broken, and Drew wassupposedly killed by a mountain man.
Ed was the only oneleft to help the helpless to civilization. Ed knew that hehad to kill the remaining mountain man to insure that themountain man didn’t kill the rest of them. “Kill or beAs Ed ascended the cliff to the top of the gorge,”Helooked for a slice of gold like the model’s in the river:some kind of freckle, something lovable, in the hugeWhen Ed reaches the top of the gorge, he carefullyplans how to kill the mountain man like an animal stalkingits prey and waiting for the right moment to pounce. Hethen climbs a tree and waits for his prey to come into view. Spotting the mountain man, Ed lines up his prey:for he was shut within a frame within a frame, allof my making: the peep sight and the alleyway ofneedles, and I knew that I had him..
.and then Isaw his face– saw that he had a face– for thefirst time. The whole careful structure of myshot began to come apart, and I struggled in mymuscles and guts and heart to hold itEventhough Ed has truly connected with his animal nature byhunting his prey and within a few seconds of making thekill, his human side still shines through complicating hisjudgment.
At the moment when Ed is then threatened furtherby the mountain man seeing him in the tree; the animalnature within him releases the arrow. When Ed shoots the mountain man, he center shoots him,therefore, the mountain man doesn’t die immediately. Toensure that the mountain man is dead, Ed tracks the mountainman, “I got down on my hands and knees to try to find adirection for the blood…
.and when I couldn’t see it Icould feel it, and, in some cases, smell it(196-197).”As Ed tracks the mountain man further into the woods, hebecomes more like an animal searching for its wounded prey,”I was thinking like a driven creature..
.I went to all fourswith my head down like a dog and the knife between myteeth…
smelling for blood like an animal again…(195-199)”Finally Ed finds the man but is not sure that he is the one.
The one that tried to force sodomy on him and killed Drew.Ed descends the cliff and condemns the body of themountain man to a fate at the bottom of the river. Then Edclimbs in the canoe along with Bobby and Lewis and proceedsdown the river to Aintry. As Ed and Bobby float down theriver in the canoe, Ed sees Drew’s body washed up on rocksat the edge of the river. Ed recovers Drew’s body andcondemns it to the same fate as the mountain man’s body. Nearing the town of Aintry, Ed makes up a story toexplain Drew’s death, Lewis’s broken leg, and his injuriesas well. The sheriff believes the story; and Bobby, Lewis,and Ed return to their lives in Atlanta.
Although Ed returns to his life in Atlanta, things haveThe river and everything I remembered about itbecame a possession to me, a personal, privatepossession, as nothing else in my life everhad…. It pleases me in some curious way that theriver does not exist, and that I have it. In meit still is, and will be until I die..
. The riverunderlies, in one way or another, everything I do. It is always finding a way to serve me, from myarchery to some of my recent ads and to the newcollages I have… full of sinuous forms threadingamong the headlines of war and student strikes.
…Thad and I are getting along much better thanbefore. The studio is still boring, but not asEd has returned to the life he onced lived, but with adifferent outlook a more appreciative, outlook on life. Eddoesn’t have the same fascination for wild things as he oncedid because he found his wildness, his animal nature, “Istill loved the way she looked, but her gold halved eye hadlost its fascination.
Its place was in the night river, inthe land of impossibility (277).” Ed is now complete withhis two halves, human nature and animal nature, he is nowBibliography:Dickey, James. Deliverance. New York: Delta, 1994.