Analysis of Seeing and Writing

In three to five paragraphs please write a response to Annie Dillard’s “Seeing,” which we went over in class on Thursday.  Please identify what Dillard’s thesis is and how she goes about proving that thesis.  Make sure you explain the difference between the “naturally obvious” and the “artificial obvious” and how these categories relate to the rest of the essay.  Write to me with any questions.




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15 Responses to Analysis of Seeing and Writing

  1. Eric Guerron says:

    Annie Dillard’s thesis is that people should notice the small things in life. Many people go through their lives going from point A to point B, but they fail to realize all of the gifts that the world has to offer. They are missing all of the exciting opportunities and challenges. Many people often succeed in seeing the “natural obvious”, which is seeing what one expects to see, but they can not succeed in seeing the “artificial obvious”, which is seeing what one does not expect. Seeing more closely and noticing the unexpected, the “artificial obvious”, will lead to further happiness. People need to break away from their assumptions and begin to become aware of the small things that life has to offer.
    Dillard supports this thesis with the case of the frog. She couldn’t find a frog, which was supposedly in front of her. A dozen “enthusiastic campers” told her that the frog was in front of her and that it was green. When she finally spots the frog, the frog was actually a color similar to “wet hickory bark.” Dillard wasn’t able to spot the frog at first because she was expecting to see a green frog, the “natural obvious.” She failed to realize that the frog was actually another color besides green, the “artificial obvious.” The reason that she was told, at the beginning, the spot the green frog by the “enthusiastic campers is because these campers were “lovers and acknowledgers ” to the topic of frogs, thus the color of “wet hickory bark” was already constructed as the “artificial obvious.”
    Another example that supports Annie Dillard’s thesis is the case of the native and the snakes. A “herpetologist asks the native ‘Are there snakes in that ravine?’ ‘Nosir.’ And the herpetologist comes home with, yessir, three bags full.” The native was already accustomed to their land that they didn’t even bother to go look for snakes. The native’s idea of the “natural obvious,” a person who is not in the know and being already used to the environment, prevented the native from noticing the small things, the unexpected. The herpetologist, a “lover and acknowledger”, easily was able to detect the snakes because they were able to construct the “artificial obvious.”

  2. Tristan Bisram says:

    Tristan Bisram

    Last Thursday in class, we went over an assigned poem, entitled “Seeing” by Annie Dillard. The poem attempts to give the reader an inside view into the head of Annie Dillard as she observes various things, especially nature. The poem contains a positive message on observation, and for those who do not understand me, i will explain in the following paragraphs.

    The thesis of this poem basically says, ” if you look around and observe more closely, the return will be in the currency of happiness. The rate of return will depend on how much you look around you. This directly relates to the terms Natural obvious and Artificial obvious. Naturally obvious is the more common one, the obvious that all of us have. The things we can see and understand right off the bat. The grass is green, the sky is blue.

    On the other hand, Artifical obvious requires more training of the eye. You can see a desk, but a person thats in tune with the artificial obvious can notice the specks of chalk dust on it, or a slight crack, and so forth. Artificial obvious promotes the person to take in more with the eyes, in hopes that the more you take in will be in furtherence of satisfaction and happiness. All in all, this is my response to Annie Dillards “Seeing”.

  3. Jessica Steinmetz says:

    In Annie Dillard’s “Seeing”, the thesis is that people should start noticing the smaller things in life. She says that if people were to “look closer at the smaller things you would otherwise miss, you get more happiness.” Most people just see the “naturally obvious” and not always the “artificial obvious”. The “naturally obvious” is the things that the eyes see right away; it is what we are used to seeing. The “artificial obvious” is the things that we have to train our eyes to see; it is not obvious to the eye.

    Annie Dillard proves the “naturally obvious” and “artificial obvious” with the frog situation. She was looking for a green frog, because that is what is natural. All the campers were screaming at her to look for a green frog. She finally spotted it, and in reality it was the color of “wet, hickory bark.” The green is the “naturally obvious”; it is what she is used to seeing when picturing a frog. The wet, hickory bark is the “artificial obvious”; it is what she had to train her eyes to see because it is not the natural color when you think of a frog.

    Another example of the “naturally obvious” and “artificial obvious” is when she walks through the street with and without a camera. Annie Dillard says that walking with her camera is like seeing the “naturally obvious”. When she takes a picture, she is framing the shot, therefore she is not seeing all the details of the area, rather just the picture she captures. When she walks without her camera, she is seeing the “artificial obvious”. She is seeing all the little details of the area, rather than just picking one part to focus on.

    Annie Dillard’s “Seeing” is telling people to start looking at the small things around, like a crack in the street or the design of a penny, rather than just the bigger things. When people look with a closer eye, it brings about more happiness. People have to train themselves to see the “artificial obvious” and not just the “naturally obvious”.

  4. David Rosen says:

    Annie Dillards essay seeing is a essay in which she tries to show that seeing should be a big part of ones life. She says that one who stops to see what life has to is truly appreciating what the has to offer. In the beginning of her essay she compares what life has to offer to many pennies. As she says “since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of of days.
    Annie Dillard tells us in her essay that seeing the artificial obvious is harder then seeing the natural obvious. The natural obvious is what our idea of something is. For example in Annie essay she has trouble seeing the frog. One might think that a frog is a small light green reptile. The artificial obvious is what is actually there. The frog wasn’t small and green but it was rather large and had the color of wet hickory bark.
    Later in Annie Dillards essay she tells us about the newly sighted. She says she tries to she see like them. She is trying to see everything as the artificial obvious. However she is unable to see things like the newly sited.

  5. Julie Ahn says:

    The thesis for Annie Dillard’s essay, “Seeing”, is that people should observe even the smaller things that life brings them. People are often too busy to stop and notice the many details around them in nature. If they look closely, they might be able to gain more happiness. Most people notice the “natural obvious”, which is what we generally see, rather than the “artificial obvious”, which is the training of the eye to see the unexpected.
    One example that proves Dillard’s thesis is when she’s at a baseball game. She says all she can do is “try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless interior babble” instead of watching the game. To truly see, she must see the game purely. The latter is the artificial obvious. As she says, “You look along it, mildly, acknowledging it’s presence without interest.”
    Another example is when she was looking at the bullfrog. She was looking for the natural obvious, which was a small green frog. In the end, she found out the frog was actually the color of wet hickory bark and was unexpectedly large. She didn’t see what she was expecting which was the small green frog. The large, hickory bark frog was the artificial obvious.
    When people stop and appreciate the small things in life, they will see the world in a different way. Dillard explores people’s inability to see the small things around them through her essay.

  6. Jongpil Park says:

    The theme of this essay is seeing. Seeing is one of the most essential activities of human beings with eating and sleeping. What we do daily is all about seeing: driving a car, reading a book, watching a television. Dillard’s concern is that people do not pay enough attention to this very important activity. We are not conscious of our seeing. There are simply so many things to see and they force us to see without much thinking. This essay is written in 1970’s. Her argument becomes more convincing when we consider the widespread use of the Internet and the enormous amount of visual information in it.

    The author starts with the simple idea of natural obvious. It is, for most people, a natural action which requires little efforts. What she means by artificial obvious is not an obvious thing at all. It can only be observed by the trained or gifted eyes. It is something to be constructed by our mind. She shows an example of watching a giant bullfrog. When she had a specific idea of its size and color she could not locate the bullfrog. Another example is that a herpetologist can find three bags of snakes when the native thinks they are not there.

    This rather simple idea, however, becomes more complicated later. “Only simplest animals like amoebae perceive the universe as it is.” Our picture of the world is processed by the visual nerve system in our brains. If that is the case what we see is not truly what we see. It is rather our brain’s interpretation of the world. In other words, when we see something we are seeing something else. This ability to see, therefore, is compared to the scales in the eyes. At some point, she exclaims, “this looking business is risky.” because she almost fell from the cleft when she was watching the hawks’ migration with her binoculars. Her serious thinking of seeing caused her a kind of mental dizziness.

    After she read a book, “Light and Space” she tried to see the world as it is without thinking. She, however, admits the futility of such an effort. “I couldn’t unpeach the peaches. Nor can I remember ever having seen without understanding.” Now she wants to become “an unscrupulous observer” She concluded this is the best way to see, “when I see this way I see truly.” She sounds like a mystic when she talks about the secret of seeing. She, sometimes, saw “the tree with the lights in it” but it does not stay. It comes and goes. She lives waiting for the moments of true seeing.

  7. Aviva Klammer says:

    In her poem, Annie Dillard, teaches that it is those who care, who truly see the world. Dillard teaches that there are different ways of approaching what is in the world. We can choose to appreciate the little things around us, we can begin to notice what we never took time to previously note, and we can also look at the world erasing our preconceptions. All these approaches are displayed in examples Annie Dillard had experienced. An example of something around us we never gave a second thought to is a penny. If asked to describe one without looking, we could barely begin describing. Yes, a penny is worth little but it is the outlook a person has that determines its worth. If a penny is counted as one cent it’s worth nothing, but if you count it as a gift you get a treasure! Annie Dillard shared the example of the campers yelling at her to look for a green frog. She had a preconceived idea that every frog must be a hunter green color, however it wasn’t until they pointed it out that she realized it was possible for the frog to be a “hickory bark” shade of green.

    Annie Dillard is not just writing to teach people how important it is to observe the world more accurately. The whole underlying motivation of her essay is to teach that proper “seeing” will grant true happiness! Annie Dillard teaches that there are two main ways to observe the world, natural and artificial seeing. Natural seeing is what one sees on their own without having to shift their regular way of seeing. Natural seeing is seeing the obvious. In contrast, artificial seeing is observing the world with training and looking closer. Seeing the artificial requires open-mindedness.

    The metaphors Dillard uses to express artificial and natural seeing are incredible. Dillard explains that coming to understand what a professional understands is learning to see artificially. It is the professional or skilled who are simply seeing the natural. Seeing with a camera is seeing the natural while seeing without a camera is seeing the artificial. Verbalization is seeing the artificial and muteness is seeing the natural. Anything that allows deeper and closer observation and understanding of the world is allowing for seeing the artificial.

  8. Amanda Zelman says:

    In Annie Dillard’s essay titled “Seeing” the thesis is one should look at the smaller things in life and will receive happiness in return. For example the penny that is she is talking about can be seen in two different ways, metaphorically or literally. For a person in dire poverty to find a penny, which literally means nothing, they don’t pick it up because they aren’t looking for anything. For one who is looking for anything to help them, the penny metaphorically seen as a gift can bring one much happiness in their life.
    Many times people look at something and just notice the “natural obvious” oppose to the “artificial obvious”. The “natural obvious” refers to the things we see in everyday life. Annie Dillard’s gives an example of this with a frog. The “natural obvious” would be that the frog is green although it really appears to be the color of “ a wet hickory bark”. The “natural obvious” is glancing at something without taking a closer look.
    The “artificial obvious” which Annie Dillard references, is the idea of taking a closer look and seeing what usually one wouldn’t expect. When sitting in a classroom the “natural obvious” would be a desk in front of the room, but the “artificial obvious” would be the dust that is on the desk. The “artificial obvious” is always there, but in order to see it one must look at the “natural obvious” differently. Another example of the “artificial obvious” is when taking pictures with a camera one will only see the “natural obvious” because without the whole picture there is no “artificial obvious”. It could be very difficult to see the “artificial obvious” especially when looking for something in specific because another thing might be missed.
    Annie Dillard shows her great appreciation for looking and seeing in her essay. From her essay one could learn to gain happiness in ones life just by taking a closer look at the world.

  9. Ariella Spector says:

    In Annie Dillards essay, “ Seeing” , her appreciation of vision is expressed. She explains how people are missing out on all the exciting opportunities that the world has to offer because they are not noticing the small things in life. If you look around the world and see the things you wouldn’t have seen you will gain happiness.
    Many people only see the “ natural obvious”’, which is what is right in front of your eyes; what one expects to see , such as the desk right in front of you. In contrast, the “ artificial obvious”, is not so obvious and requires training of the eye such as noticing the dust particles on the desk.
    Annie Dillard supports this idea with the case of the bullfrog. She has trouble seeing the frog which is right in front of her. When she finally spots the frog it was the color of “ wet hickory bark.” She was not able to spot the frog because she was looking for a green frog , the “natural obvious” . The wet hickory bark is the “artificial obvious” that she had to train her eyes to see.
    If we take the time to look around and appreciate the little things around us, we will be aware of what life has to offer. By seeing more closely and noticing the “artificial obvious” we will in return get true happiness.

  10. Cassandra Needham says:

    In Annie Dillard’s “Seeing” the thesis is the importance of taking the time to notice the little things in life. People often get caught up in their own lives and don’t take the time to notice the wonderful world around them. In most cases if a person was to take the time to observe the smaller things in life they would be much happier.
    Most people see the “naturally obvious” not the “artificial obvious”. The “natural obvious” is what people normally see, what they’re used to. The “artificial obvious” is when people take the time to observe the world around them.
    The sunset that Dillard discusses helps explain her thesis. She describes a normal sunset with invisiable low clouds on the southern or northern horizon. She describes how she notices the invisiable clouds from looking into a reflection in the water. When Dillard notices the invisiable clouds she is noticing the “artificial obvious”, and when she just sees the sunset that is “natural obvious”. The sunset shows that by just intially looking at the sunset that is all a person will see, but when a person takes the time to observe everything they will notice much more. Annie Dillard uses examples such as the sunset to show how important it is to take the time to notice the smaller things in life because if people don’t they will miss out on the wonders that the world provides.

  11. Ariel Aharon says:

    In Annie Dillard’s “Seeing”, the thesis is seeing, hence the name of the essay. She starts by talking about how pennies are a “gift from the universe.” There are millions of pennies on the street, something so insignificant that most people won’t even notice it and just continue going about their day, yet some people believe in the notion of a lucky penny so they pick it up, hoping something lucky will happen. “She believes if you can appreciate these small simple gifts, the rest of what you find will be in their own way riches and lead to happiness.

    She uses “artificial obvious” and “natural obvious” to prove how people observe and see things. “Natural obvious” is what one is expected and used to seeing, while the “artificial obvious” is what we don’t see at first but what we have to train our eye and take a closer look at. She uses the example of frog, when one thinks of a frog immediately the color green comes to mind which is the “natural obvious” but she couldn’t find the frog for three minutes until she finally realized the frog was actually “ the color of wet hickory bark,” which is the “artificial obvious.”

    Another example is a “herpetologist asks the native ‘Are there snakes in that ravine?’ ‘Nosir.’ And the herpetologist comes home with, yessir, three bags full.” The native is used to what is there and isn’t trained like the herpetologist to find the snakes. When someone’s eyes are trained they will see things that other people can’t see right away. But after it’s pointed out by the expert then we see what is really there.

  12. Shahrzad Karimi says:

    In her essay “seeing”, Annie Dillard tells us about how important it is to try to see things that we are not used to see, and pay attention to more details in what we see. According to her essay, if you put enough care and love to pay attention to the details of what you see in life, you will be rewarded; and you will be surprised to know that what you get back as reward is happiness.

    In order to explain her point, Dillard tries to tell us what she has seen when she has gone to a creek in the dark. Things that we may not notice or may not even see only because it is dark, but if you pay attention and focus, you can see them too. This is what she calls “the artificial obvious”. As she explains, “natural obvious” is what our eyes are used to see and the amount of details we are used to notice. But artificial obvious is what we can see if we train our eyes. We have to teach ourselves to see the details. Like seeing a turtle and noticing all the wrinkles and the colors on its skin.

    Annie Dillard believes the ability of seeing the artificial obvious is so important that in a part of her essay she compares it to being blind, and then getting your eyesight back. She talks about newly sighted people and how the ability of seeing, changes their perception of life. I believe that by mentioning these stories, Dillard is trying to get to her point and say that if we can only see the natural obvious, we are blind. Once we learn to see the artificial obvious, it is like we have our eyesight back.

  13. Shadi Karimi says:

    What Annie Dillard is trying to tell us in her essay ,”seeing”, is that it is important to look closely so you will see things in life that you would not have seen before. She says that if people look more closely around the world they will notice the small things in life; thus, they will gain more happiness. Then she starts to tell us about the “natural obvious” and the “artificial obvious” and how different they are.
    The “natural obvious” is what most people can see and is things that you see everyday and it is easy to see them. But “artificial obvious” is hard to see, so you have to care to look closely then you could see them. One example that Annie Dillard gives in her essay to explain the concept of the natural obvious and the artificial obvious and the difference between them is that when she walks through the street with and without a camera. She says that walking with her camera is like seeing the natural obvious, it’s like watching what you expect and there are no details in the photo that you take with your camera, but walking without a camera is like seeing the artificial obvious because you could see more details and even notice things that you don’t expect to see.
    Annie Dillard’s essay is basically telling us “what you see is what you get”. The world is made of many beautiful things but it depends on yourself, if you want to enjoy them you have to see them. So by training your eyes to see the “artificial obvious”, you will see the small things and details in your life so you will appreciate them and gain more happiness.

  14. Abby Kashi says:

    In Annie Dillard’s “seeing”, she talks about two different kinds of “seeing” that one may experience. She uses metaphors and displays an abundance of artistically crafted lyrics to explain the difference between the artificial obvious and the natural obvious. An underlying point that is shown throughout the essay is that seeing beyond what is obvious can bring happiness.
    As Annie Dillard pronounces clearly in her essay, the natural obvious is what one see’s with no effort involved: The tree in the backyard, the plate that sits before you and the lip stain on a napkin. It hardly takes a breadth of brain to see the natural obvious. The artificial obvious, according to Dillard, holds a different meaning. Artificial obvious is what one cannot see at the first glimpse of sight. It involves more effort and consciousness to recognize it.
    In this essay, Annie empowers the idea seeing the artificial obvious. She explains that one will be much happier if they do so. Seeing more than what we would see creates a picture its entirety. It not only gives us more details but it also gives us more happiness as well.
    One of the comparisons that Dillard brings up in the essay really explains the quality of the picture we see based on what materials we use. To be more specific she says that someone who walk around with a camera will see different then person who doesn’t walk around with a camera. The one who has the camera sees what he expects and zooms into the natural obvious, while the one who walks bear handed spots things that weren’t expected. This brings happiness, Dillard announces.
    Although the artificial obvious is much esteemed, it is not easy to acquire. Dillard mentions that the art of noticing the unnoticeable can only be attained by the “lover and the knowledgeable”. This is so because they actually care about it. They have passion for the topic. However must not try to muster all their energy to attain the artificial obvious. That is because if one tries too hard, then it may come to consequence that they might miss some other detail that should be noticed as well.
    Overall we see that Annie Dillard pays much attention to the way we see things. She states the differences between the natural and the artificial obvious and says that paying attention to the artificial obvious not only broadens our scope of what we can see, but can also bring us happiness.

  15. Diana Marzulli says:

    Seeing by Annie Dillard is a fascinating essay about a “artificial view” of the world one may never think of seeing until reading Seeing. She explains that the “artificial obvious” is not what a person would normally see while looking at something. For example, “seeing wind is not natural to the eye, but it can be seen when carrying a leaf, flower…” She also uses the “naturally obvious” to describe what is natural to the eye. If you look more closely, at the “artificial obvious” you will gain more happiness in what you see.
    When Dillard was a child she would hide a penny and draw arrows to it, hoping someone would find it. She uses the penny metaphorically as a gift. She had hoped that someone would find this penny and “receive a free gift from the universe”. “What you see is what you get.” If you do not see the penny, you will not receive “your free gift from the universe”. “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty, and simplicity, a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you will have your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”
    Someone who is in dire poverty, who doesn’t desire to find gifts from the universe and has stopped looking for something worthwhile, will not see the “artificially obvious.” On the contrary, someone who lives in healthy poverty, who strives and looks to find what they need, they will see the “artificially obvious.” If you find meaning, and look closely, the universe will give you gifts, a penny. “If we learn to see this way, we can find new happiness.”

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