The Beaver Pond

Wild Pilgimage was first published in 1932 by Harrison Smith and Robert Haas. Ward uses a second color to contrast the interior life which exists in the thoughts and dreams of our protaganist from the external reality. Testing one's beliefs against reality is a skill we are not taught. Critical thinking is dangerous to the class structure. Why are labor union history, racism's economic role, and the evolution of class structure not taught? Who benefits when empty platitudes about democracy and progress are substituted for analysis of historical trends?


"In the American experience there is probably no more basic or recurrent impulse than to leave society. It is a madness- or a sanity- that can take hold of any citizen when the daily grind becomes suddenly more abrasive than anyone should be asked to endure; when the crush of too many people in too small a space is finally more than one can take; when the noise and smells of the city are at last too stifling to be borne.Then the urge to pick up and leave, to get away somehow, is irresistible. Surely, the impulse whispers in your ear, it is not inevitable that I should live and die in this hellhole; surely, there is more to the world and to life than this.


On the group level we have a history of of organised congregations fleeing civilization en masse and entering the wilderness to find a new Eden. And we have an almost equally long list of disenchantments with these new societies.

At no time was the impulse more evident than during the thirties. There were some who sought a way out for themselves alone. There were those who fled the urban and industrial wastes and sought a hermit's refuge in whatever place there was a hint of sanctuary. There were others who, seeing so much hunger and so little work close at hand, roamed aimlessly across the land, hoping that in some far off place they would find at least some work and less hunger. And there were those who, equally disenchanted, felt that while flight might provide an answer for a few, for the many there was no choice but to stay, and that by confronting one problem at a time, dealing first with the one closest at hand, a day might come that would be better.


Wild Pilgrimage has its roots in these concerns. It was the result of a long-term preoccupation with some of the dilemmas that were embedded in those alternatives. The protagonist is not a beautiful person, especially in the literal sense. This is deliberate, because one of the things I was anxious to explore in this story was the relation between the reality of the external world and the conceptual world that exists in the mind of each one of us. It seemed to me that an individual who was less than well favored by nature in terms of physical appearance would experience a more dramatic contrast between what is happening in outer reality and the thoughts, urges, and desires that compose the inner world.

To establish this contrast between inner and outer worlds, I employed a technique that, as far as I know, has not been used elsewhere. This was to change the color in which the the alternating sequences are printed. Thus, the establishment of character and setting and the beginning of action appear in the customary black-and-white in which most woodblocks are printed. But at the first point in the story where the reader is to move inside the protagonist's head and see what images have formed there and thereby understand what desires and intentions those images reflect, the color of the printed block changes to an off-red. The change from black to color and back to black again is a pattern followed throughout the narrative."


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Lynd Ward engravings and quoted text are copyright © Harry Abrams Co. and Lynd Ward
Contents, unless otherwise noted, are copyright © 1996 Don Chaps. All rights reserved.