"The Second Tree From the Corner"
Tareyn Powell
B1 English332

E.B. White is a very well know author. He is also known as “one of the most influential modern American essayists” (E.B. White). This short story is a great representation of modernism as well as White’s individual style.

The short story "The Second Tree From the Corner" is very meaningful. Mr. Trexler goes to a psychiatrist and the doctor asks Mr. Trexler a series of questions, yet Trexler seems unwilling to answer any of the doctor’s questions (White). When asked what he wants, the doctor answers with a shallow, selfish answer. The more Trexler thinks about the doctor’s answer to the question, the more he thinks about what his own answer to the question would be. He finally realizes that what he wants, is the second tree from the corner, just as it stands (White).

When Trexler figures out what he wants in this short story, it is like a light bulb turning on. He gained confidence in himself by answering that question. The story contains many examples of Modernism. One example is how it shows character complexity with Trexler and his thinking process, it lets the reader into the character’s feelings (Characteristics). Another example is the emphasis on the individual (Characteristics). Trexler focuses his time on figuring out what he wants after visiting with a psychiatrist (White). These are just a few of the examples within this short story.

It is clear that some of E.B. White’s other pieces of work are similar to "The Second Tree From the Corner". E.B. White has also written "Charlotte’s Web", and in that story, the main character builds confidence in himself just like Trexler does. Another story White has written is "Stuart Little", and the growth of the main character is the same as "The Second Tree From the Corner" and "Charlotte’s Web". It is clear that White has a theme amongst his main characters in his stories, for they all grow emotionally throughout the stories.

While this story is similar to some of White’s other works, it is not similar to "Beware: Do Not Read This Poem" or "Opal". There is perhaps one similarity between "The Second Tree From the Corner" and "Opal", and that is just the sense of confusion. In Opal, it is the narrator that is confused about the person they are speaking about, and in "The Second Tree From the Corner" it is Trexler who is confused at the beginning (White).

White’s personal life must have greatly influenced his writing. Early in his career, White was offered a job teaching at a university (E.B. White). He turned down the offer, for he knew that he wanted to be an author (E.B. White). This shows just how confident White was in his goals in life, and how he knew what he wanted. This confidence is exactly what the main characters in White’s stories end up possessing. The connection between the author and his characters is clear.

All in all, "The Second Tree From the Corner" does a very good job of show casing Modernism characteristics. It has a strong sense of character growth and complexity. Similar to the other famous works by White, this story’s main character grows in self confidence. The life he led influenced his story, just like his other pieces of work did.

Works Cited

"Characteristics of Modernism." SOCRATES. Web. 02 May 2010. http://socrates.troy.edu/~lworthington/eng2206/mod.htm..

"E. B. White Biography - Life, Family, Children, Parents, Name, Story, Death, Wife, Young, So.n, Book, Information, Born, College, Marriage, Time, Year." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Web. 04 May 2010. http://www.noteablebiographies.com/We-Z-E-B.html

White, E.B. "The Second Tree from the Corner." Glencoe Literature. By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm PhD. American Literature Edition ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 930-34. Print.

The Second Tree From the Corner by E.B. White is a great example of Modernism in literature. Modernism focuses on individualism and questions absolute truths. These Modernism concepts are shown in the work of E.B. White.

In the opening paragraph of The Second Tree From the Corner, Mr. Trexler is visiting with a psychiatrist. He is as nervous as his doctor, who is trying to diagnose his condition. He suffers from a myriad of symptoms. To the reader, it would seem that they both suffer from not knowing what they want in life. This kind of writing matches up with the Imagist concept and Modernism.

E.B. White, the author, uses brief, clear language that forms precise images. Mental pictures of how the patient perceives the doctor, "was not only closely watching the patient's every move, but creeping toward him like a lizard toward a bug" (White 931). This fits in with Modernism with moments of revealed truth.

The subject matter is Psychiatry and this lines up with Modernism. The practice of telling one's troubles to a shrink is not all that old in this country. Through simple speech, the reader is allowed to think through his/her own answers when the patient and doctor question one another about what they each want in life.

E. B. White definitely practiced Modernism in The Second Tree From The Corner. Near the end, Mr. Trexler comes to the conclusion that even though he is bound by fear, he is content with himself and knows how to tap into courage when needed. After deciding that what he really wants is the second tree from the corner just as it stands, he is prideful that what “he wanted none could bestow and that what he had none could take away” (White 934).

He feels sorry for his poor, lonely doctor as he boards a bus headed for downtown. Mr. Trexel had learned to assess his own values and he is happy with himself. This short story shows individualism, which is a characteristic of Modernism. Mr. Trexler knows he is not perfect but he decides he is okay with that, and is going to look past imperfections.

E.B. White's life affected his writings greatly. White lived in New York where he was staff writer for the magazine, The New Yorker . He wrote many things for this magazine and showed off his talent doing so. In the 1930's, White decided to leave the big city and move to a rural area, where he had a farm with many animals (Wilhelm 928). These animals were inspirations for many of his stories. Living on a farm and being a writer for a magazine affected E.B. White's life and made him the great author he is known as today.

Along with writing The Second Tree From the Corner, he also wrote many short stories and children's classics, such as Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. The Second Tree From the Corner differs in style from some of his other works because it is a short story. White's most well-known works are his children's classics. The themes of White's works differ also. While The Second Tree From the Corner is about a man being treated by a psychiatrist; Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web are about animals.

E.B. White's The Second Tree From the Corner differs in style, character, and theme, from H.D.'s At Baia and Robinson Jeffers' Shine, Perishing Republic. It differs in style because At Baia and Shine, Perishing Republic are both poems, and The Second Tree From the Corner is a short story. It differs in theme because At Baia is a love poem, which describes the love Hilda Doolittle has for her lover. The Second Tree From the Corner is not a love story like At Baia. It is mainly about a male patient and a psychiatrist. Shine, Perishing Republic differs in theme because it is a poem about the United States and how it is “perishing”.

The Second Tree From the Corner is an example of Modernism in literature. It shows individualism of the main character. E.B. White's life styles, living in New York and on a farm, affected his writings greatly. This work by White differs from his other works and the works of other authors, such as Robinson Jeffers and Hilda Doolittle.

Wilhelm PhD, Jeffrey D. "Before You Read The Second Tree From the Corner." Glencoe Literature. American Literature Edition ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 928-29. Print.

White, E.B. "The Second Tree from the Corner."
Glencoe Literature. By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm PhD. American Literature Edition ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 930-34. Print.