The Flood of Tinker Creek

By: Grant Lewellen


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a nature work based on the personal experiences of Annie Dillard. Dillard describes her philosophies in the book through her experiences at Tinker Creek and often draws from Transcendentalist writers that have been a huge influence on her work. These experiences also serve a religious purpose in discovering God's work and reasoning in the natural world. Dillard thus becomes a "pilgrim" by traveling to the creek in order to find a spiritual connection and treats the creek as a holy and sacred place.

Chapter 9: "Flood"

The chapter titled 'Flood' in the novel signals a major shift in the tone of the author from via positiva in the beginning of the book to via negativa throughout the rest of the book. Via positiva is a view that describes nature's beauty and wonder in much the same way as earlier Romantic Era nature writers did and provides a positive outlook on the nature of the earth. However, with the introduction of a scene of a violent storm, this view drastically changes. Dillard begins the chapter with the scene of Hurricane Agnes as it ravages the forest and floods the creek. Her beloved creek that she has described with such enthusiasm andromeda is being destroyed before her eyes and gives nature a darker connotation than before. This scene is pivotal in the novel as it signals the shift to a more negative view on the world as Dillard begins to investigate the horrors of the world. She begins to notice the chaos and destructive power of nature and how it changes the environment around her so swiftly and menacingly. Instead of celebrating nature like authors before her, Dillard instead begins to question the motives of God himself, and asks "why does a good God let bad things happen?" We as readers progressively get more personal with Dillard as we see her thought process and moral dilemmas and begin to change our attitude on her as her tone changes. The scene can be seen as a sort of climax that is lacking in the book since it is undoubtedly more active and chaotic than the other chapters and alters the tone and message that the reader takes away in the end.