Posted in Short Stories

E. B. White: The Second Tree From the Corner


K♥  K♥  K♥  K♥  K♥  K♥

I first encountered E. B. White with this book:


Then I went on to this book:


And then this one:


I read all three of these when I was in grade school – which was a long time ago.  I then re-read them years later when I had kids of my own.  Each book contains a sweetness and a bittersweetness written with a style that says great writing isn’t just for adults nor are children’s books just for children.

After all these years, I was pleasantly surprised to find one of White’s short stories, “The Second Tree From the Corner”  in my collection, Best American Short Stories of the Century.  And even more pleasantly surprised that I got to read it for Week 3 of my Deal Me In 2015 Short Story Project when I drew the King of Hearts.  My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here.  Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

“Second Tree” is a gentle story told from the point of view of mild-mannered Trexler as he visits his psychiatrist.  We don’t know much of Trexler’s personal life nor why he is seeing a psychiatrist.  We do know that Trexler and his doctor approach life from different perspectives.  During their session, Trexler ever so slowly moves his chair away from the doctor.  The doctor immediately determines that Trexler is afraid of him and points this out.  Later, when Trexler turns the table (so to speak) on his psychiatrist, the doctor slowly inches his chair backwards.

I like White’s (and Trexler’s) take on this idea that the fulfillment one might get out of life does not have to be steeped in charting goals and walking a path set in stone along the way to great achievements:

Trexler found himself renewed by the remembrance that what he wanted was at once great and microscopic, and that although it borrowed from the nature of large deeds and of youthful love and of old songs and early intimations, it was not any one of these things, and that it had not been isolated or pinned down, and that a man who attempted to define it in the privacy of a doctor’s office would fall flat on his face.

The story begins with the the doctor asking Trexler if he has any bizarre thoughts.  Trexler gives an answer eventually although it’s only to the reader in the final line of the story, not the doctor:

He crossed Madison, boarded a downtown bus, and rode all the way to Fifty-second Street before he had a thought that could rightly have been called bizarre.

In between, the reader gets great writing, a wonderful character and a story set in New York City.  Personally, I couldn’t ask for much more.

5 thoughts on “E. B. White: The Second Tree From the Corner

  1. I only have a vague memory of reading Charlotte’s Web when I was young, although it was almost universally loved by all my contemporaries. Maybe my reading had already “outgrown” it by the time I read it?

    Interesting that two DMI participants read stories by “children’s authors” this week (so far) and actually read a children’s story. – Kids Week at DMI! 🙂

    1. I liked all three of White’s books as a kid just for the stories. I didn’t realize what an amazing writer he was until I was an adult. And this story confirms it.

  2. I have a book of Essays by White and chose one of them for my DMI challenge so I have it to look forward to. The one you read sounds wonderful but sadly my compilation doesn’t include it. I’ll have to make a note.

    Ah ha, yes, I was one of the one’s who had a children’s book and I just drew another. I’m so enjoying reading these old classics. The old children’s authors wrote such excellent stories!

    1. Hi Cleo, I was just looking at your list! Your essays look great. I need to read more essays and I have a feeling E. B. White’s would be well-worth reading.

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