Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire Essay

1961 Words 8 Pages
Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire

“I now feel brave enough to venture forth and bear earth’s torments and its joys, to grapple with the hurricane.” (Faust, lines 464-66)

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? . . . Declare if thou knowest it all. (Job 38:17,18)

Human beings are prideful creatures, and we have good reason to be. We have subdued a planet, changed the course of rivers, watered deserts, written poetry to make angels cry, and wrapped the world in a network of electric impulses and digital displays. We have created and killed not one but many gods. We can make a cloud rain by shooting heavy metal into
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Darwin’s earthquake shook not only the houses of Concepcion on a March afternoon in 1835, it also contributed to the rumblings in Darwin’s brain. In his journals, he recorded: “The most remarkable effect (or perhaps speaking more correctly, cause) of this earthquake was the permanent elevation of the land. . .” (237-38). Darwin was forming an image of a land being thrust up and then sinking, creatures trapped by the terrain and beginning to change in their isolation, sea shells left to be found at the top of a mountain.

The physical earthquake touched off intellectual aftershocks. Like the houses of Concepcion, Darwin’s earlier ideas of the earth’s inability to move were destroyed, and his imagination was fired by real experience:

I feel it is quite impossible to convey the mixed feelings with which one beholds such a spectacle . . . yet compassion for the inhabitants is almost instantly forgotten, from the interest excited in finding the state of things produced in one moment of time, which one is accustomed to attribute to the succession of ages. (235)

Darwin learned that the earth could change, and quickly. It was only a matter of time before he concluded that if the earth could be altered, so could a species, and the theory of evolution took shape.

Darwin’s theory revolutionized science. People

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