“The Bowl” by Terry Tempest Williams

“The Bowl” by Terry Tempest Williams produced a deep impression on me. Such pieces of writing cannot remain without the reader’s attention since through its lines you can see that the writer put a part of his soul into his work. The style of writing the writer uses and his manner of writing make the parable even more impressive.

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The most important point which should be mentioned above all is that the very first lines capture and intrigue the reader. Once coming across the words “There was a woman who left her city, left her husband and her children, left everything behind to retrieve her soul” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 36) you cannot stop reading further and finding out what exactly happened to this woman and what her life is going to be like now. The beginning of any piece of writing is very important as its first lines, if looking promising, encourage the reader for further reading which in this case he or she cannot abandon when having started reading “The Bowl”.

The next thing which attracts the attention of the reader is the variety of epithets the writer uses to describe the place the woman got into. The description of landscapes and nature in general is also very important for the reader as it helps him or her imagine everything what is going on in details and even become a part of what he or she reads. Detailed description of the canyon gives the reader a possibility to see what the woman was surrounded by and which impression it made on her. It shows her dreams and her fears, her expectations and hopes. She badly needed this place to retrieve her soul, to start a new life and to distract her mind from the daily routine she was forced to go through day after day. That’s why what seems to the reader cheerless and comfortless is a real godsend for this woman and her wounded soul: “The walls were as she had recalled them, tall and streaked from rim to floor. The rock appeared as draped fabric as she placed her hand flat against its face. The wall was cold…” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 36). These cold lifeless walls seem unable to evoke any emotions in the person who touches them but they really started curing the heart of this woman.

Another important part is the one describing the day when the woman finds the first clay ball. Without knowing what to do with it she does what her heart, her instincts, her soul tell her. That’s what she never did before when living with her family, that’s what she started doing now having become independent and doing what she wants not what she has to do. This from the first sight unimportant point becomes decisive in her life because all she was able to do with the clay ball when her soul was still unhealed “she kneaded it as she walked, rubbed the clay between the palms of her hands and watched it lengthen” ( Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 38). In other words, what she did was just a mere observance and no imagination used whereas a bit later when she found a couple of other clay balls she started thinking what to do with them and that’s where her creativity became apparent: “She had an idea of making dolls for her children, small clay figurines that she would let dry in the sun” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 38). This all means that the first stage of her recovery passed successfully.

Without having any idea about it she “re-created” her family. It was not because she was thinking about her husband and her children all the time. Her subconsciousness reminded her about them and let her know that deep in her soul she needs her family.

And finally, that part describing her wallowing in clay and acting crazy and not being ashamed for that is the moment where the woman understands that she is alone now and that her children are on the their own. When she puts up with this idea she realizes that her soul is healed now and she can come back home.

This all helps the reader understand that the parable can have several interpretations. By describing what the author meant by what he wrote we managed to discover that he didn’t write everything in literal sense and some points have a certain hidden meaning. To show this the author uses different stylistic devices such as metaphors as in, for example, “pallor that comes when everything else is going out” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 36), showing that the years of daily routine gave her a sickly look, “furrows under her eyes that had been eroded by tears” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 36), used to show how unhappy her life was, “her hair relaxed” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 38), used to show that she was beginning to recover. We can also come across personifications such as “the roar of the flood” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 39), “the small stream rose higher” (Terry Tempest Williams, John Telfor, p. 39), which the author uses to help the reader imagine everything more vividly. But of course, the biggest importance in this parable belongs to symbolism. Making a bowl out of clay was not for nothing. Initially, a bowl was a symbol of wealth. As the parable states, the woman put into the bowl small figures made of clay symbolizing her family. It is very doubtful that she knew about this symbolism which means that again not deliberately she showed that her family was the greatest wealth for her.

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There is no doubt that to introduce symbolistic images into a piece of writing is very difficult because the writer should aim at easy comprehension of his symbolism by a reader.

Taking into account all above mentioned facts it can be noticed that Terry Tempest Williams managed to reach his aim and to impress the reader by successfully applying different methods stated above to show the reader more than one interpretation of his piece of writing.

Reference list

Terry Tempest Williams and John Telfor. Coyote’s Canyon. Gibbs Smith, 1989.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“The Bowl” by Terry Tempest Williams'. 8 October.

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