One of the fascinating features of Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature” is the means by which he packaged his content. The story is more like an authoritative doctrine wherein any other point of view deserves no attention. Percy did not write anywhere among the pages that alternative opinions are not welcome. However, he spoke with such passionate assertiveness that a weak-minded person might abandon their own right to disagree. The literary talent displayed among Percy’s writing made use of three techniques. He used different scenarios presented in story-format in which the characters react to an engaging experience and lose something along the way. Secondly, he simultaneously criticized the character’s behaviors to justify his bold assumptions. Most humorous of all is the way he turned something that is completely intangible into an organism. He spoke of human experiences and memories as if they are creatures that disappear. Who does he blame for their disappearance? Human beings. He conjured a smoke of blame to create a sense of guilt.
There is a twist of irony in each story that Percy presented wherein creatures get lost. The irony is subtle but ever-present. For example, the tourists viewing the Grand Canyon were used to serve his purpose efficiently. They did what most human would naturally desire by taking photographs to preserve their experiences and share with family members at a later time. Rather than directly explain that their instincts to take picture was incorrect. Percy simply insinuated that they will never get the same excitement as the original discovers of the Canyon because, “The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard” (p. 298) He blamed tourists for spoiling their own vacations rather than explaining his point of view from his own personal experiences. This method of convincing the reader was unforeseen and quite surprising. Other examples of scenarios used by Percy include the couple who discovered an Indian Tribe. This couple wandered off of the beaten track just as he prescribed. Yet, their behaviors were still met with fervent criticism. Why? Percy felt that they only wanted to share their experience in order to impress a colleague in their home town. In this foolish way, their creature would also be lost. The boy who discovered a sea shell on the beach is the one character who measured up to Percy’s expectations. Meanwhile, the science lab student was labeled as someone who would learn nothing since they were in a controlled environment with a professor looming overhead.
Percy’s assumptions about each character’s experiences were bold in three ways. First, they were imposed on them in the same cruel way that a religious person might impose their beliefs someone who is homosexual. For instance, he stated that a person’s visit to the Grand Canyon (with the use of photography) is confined to the past rather than the present moment. Secondly, his assumptions disregarded the fact that everyone has a different learning style. People attach emotions to each experience which enhances new adventures. Lastly, he required that people endanger themselves by getting off of the beaten track in order to have an authentic tour. It was truly metaphoric. By splattering controversial rhetoric throughout his pages, Percy propositioned his readers to do something unsafe or risk losing the potency of every first-time excursion.
Many authors use personification. For instance, they might say the wind was a bully when it yanked a child’s umbrella. Yet, Percy evokes laughter even while insulting people by referring to memories as creatures. The creature is made of experiences both in life and the classroom. The creature becomes tarnished and eventually lost because foolish humans try to preserve the experience on paper and in film. They also subscribe to the stories and photographs of others prior to visiting a new place which is equally damaging according to Percy. By using this term creature Percy was able to breathe life into his points and make them important for the reader. After all, no one likes losing things or feeling that something was taken from them. Using the term creature as a metaphor made it easier to assign blame to people for losing it. Having successfully accomplished this in his writing enabled him to evoke a feeling of guilt to anyone who sides with his ideology.
“The Loss of the Creature” was masterfully creative because of the rhetorical soup Percy presented to his audience. His recipe was spiked with rude criticism of people who simply wanted to have photos of the Grand Canyon in case they might never be able to return. He shunned a science lab student while praising the alternative method of learning by randomly opening organisms on the beach. He shared a preference for disregarding safety by jumping off course while taking a Grand Canyon tour. Percy’s doctrine was adamantly against bringing pre-conceived notions to new experiences. These are all unique ways of expressing his ideas because the explanations served a dual purpose. First, they were suggestions for how people should live their lives. Secondly, they issued a punishment for disobeying his recommendations. The punishment was that each adventure would decline in value. In addition, the present moment would be stale, sour and then lost instead of enriching and fulfilling. In summary, Percy’s view-points had to be presented in an unapologetic fashion in order to bully the reader into considering his logic. The best way to accomplish this was to use different scenarios in a story format. After all, most people have visited a tourist area after seeing advertisements, encountered people of a different culture and attended school. The lasting message in Percy’s writing is that the creature lives in the mind. Even if Percy is the only one who gets to define its origin, the creature’s retention or loss remains under the control of each individual.