Twice Gone, Twice Returned Essay, Research Paper
An Analytical Essay on “The Horse Whisperer”
?Twice gone to hell and twice returned? (449) is the phrase Nicholas Evans uses to describe Grace?s emotional journey in the final chapter of The Horse Whisperer. In fact, Grace?s development is an important theme throughout the novel. Pivotal to Grace?s development were the two times she went ?to hell? after which a critical change can be seen in the girls outlook on life and her relationship with her mother. By breaking up the novel into three smaller sections it is easier to see this progression. Prior to Grace?s accident she is indifferent towards her relationship with her mother. After Grace?s accident she begins to confront this relationship and to some extent rebuilds it. Later, this relationship is nearly destroyed, but when Grace once again revisits the horror of death, she finally is able to break through and reaches a peace with her mother.
Not much is known of Grace?s relationship with her mother near the beginning of the novel, however, a brief background related by Annie does give some insight into the relationship. Annie recalls a conversation between her and Grace in which they are discussing a mother daughter photo shoot:
??Why don?t we ever do this?? Grace said, not looking up. Annie answered, rather too tartly, that she thought it was immoral, like product placement. And Grace had nodded thoughtfully, still not looking at her. ?Uh-huh,? she said, matter-of-fact, flipping on to something else. ? I guess people think you?re younger if you make out you haven?t got kids.?
This comment and the fact that it had been uttered without a trace of malice had given Annie such a shock that for several weeks she thought of little else then her relationship with Grace, or as she now saw it, her lack of one? (39).
It?s stated twice that Grace is not looking at her mother while speaking to her. Clearly Grace is either intentionally not looking at her mother, ignoring the lack of communication between them, or doesn?t care enough to even bother. Either way, this demonstrates the lack of active communication between the two. Grace?s snide remark to Annie?s seemingly legit excuse also shows a lack of trust in Grace towards Annie. Lastly, Annie herself admits to observing the lack of relationship between her daughter and herself.
Grace?s accident forever changes the relationship between her and her mother. When Grace is in her coma, she is eventually faced with a choice: ? In the distance she could see a circle of light and somehow she knew she had the choice of going towards it or turning and going in the other direction where there was also light, but of a dimmer, less welcoming kind. ? (77). The brighter light represents death and consequently freedom from earthly problems. The dimmer light represents life and the problems Grace will have to face when she wakes up from the coma. At this point Grace chooses to head towards the dimmer light. She realizes that it is less inviting, but she chooses it regardless. Compared to how Grace handled choices in earlier examples, this choice is more mature. It symbolizes Grace?s willingness to finally confront her problems.
More importantly however than Grace?s willingness to head to that tunnel, is who Grace knows is at the end of it. ?Then she heard voices. They were coming from the place where the light was dimmer. She couldn?t see who it was but she knew one of the voices was her mother?s.? (77) Grace can?t see her mother, but she chooses to head towards her voice anyway. With no way of actually knowing what awaits her, Grace has chosen to trust her mother?s voice and symbolically her mother. Thus begins a long, difficult healing process between the two, which may not be apparent at first as Grace fights to hold on to her former state of mind.
Indeed at first it seems as though Grace may be reverting to her old state of mind. She tries constantly to hurt Annie as is shown during the scene outside of the Little Big Horn memorial. Still something in Grace makes her realize what she?s doing to her mother isn?t right. This feeling builds up until a point after the Bookers eat dinner with Annie and Grace, and Annie finds out that Grace had been out riding with Joe. Annie speaks to Grace later that evening:
? ?You?ve started??
?What, tonight?? Grace nodded.
?Who?s going to want me??
?Whoever?s going to want me? Nobody will.?
? Oh Gracie, that?s not true . . .?
?Why should they??
?Because you?re you. You?re incredible. You?re beautiful and you?re strong. And you?re the bravest person I?ve met in my whole life.?
They held each other and wept. And when they could speak again, Grace told her she hadn?t meant the terrible things she?d said and Annie said she knew, but there was truth there too, and as a mother, she had gotten many, many things wrong. They sat with their heads on each other?s shoulders and let flow from their hearts words they?d barely dared utter to themselves? (295).
This climax in their relationship shows Grace finally giving into the aforementioned feelings inside that told her what she was doing to her mother wasn?t right. The fact that Grace had just started her period shows that physically, she is maturing. But this paralleling confrontation with her mother shows how she is emotionally maturing. Before this point, the only other time Grace has confronted her problems when was she chose the dimmer light. Now she is finally ready to repair her relationship with Annie. However, it remains to be seen at this point whether this repair will be permanent. The test will come soon enough and the third stage reached, when Grace is faced with her mother?s infidelity.
The final of the three stages of Grace?s relationship with her mother comes on the heels of Tom Bookers death. Recall that Grace?s seemingly stabilized relationship with Annie was completely shattered when Grace found out about Annie and Tom?s relationship. Grace describes how she feels about it while by herself on her catatonic journey out on the ranch: ?She slicked his sweating neck and saw again in her head those two guilty figures slinking one by one from the dark of the barn, like dogs from a butcher?s yard, thinking themselves unseen and unsuspected . . . adults were sick . . .It was sick, it was all so sick? (433). Shortly thereafter Grace is once again confronted with death, when the white mustang corners her. Tom saves Grace from the mustang, but is killed in doing so. Grace can do nothing but look on in awe as she undergoes her final change while Tom is trampled to death.
The final chapter of the book describes Grace?s transition into the final stage of maturity and how it finally heals her relationship with her mother. Annie describes Grace?s ordeal: ?Twice gone to hell and twice returned. She had seen what she had seen and from it gleaned some sad and stilling wisdom that was as old as time itself? (449). The knowledge Grace gained in from these experiences ?unlocked a sluice gate in her and for two weeks she wept and poured forth her agony. It might have swept both of them all away. But in the flooded calm of its aftermath, Grace seemed to take stock and decide, like Pilgrim, to survive. In that moment, Grace became an adult? (448). Clearly the second encounter with death helped Grace?s transition once again giving her the strength to confront her feelings. Seeing death helps her to finally make the decision to move on with her life, perhaps even to respect it a little more. She is described as finally becoming an adult. The transformation in Grace and Annie?s relationship is now solidified and complete.
The three stages of Grace?s development with regards to her relationship with her mother show the process of healing. Grace begins a child, young and unable to confront her problems. Her accident forces her to make a decision on whether to go on and perhaps confront her problems or give up. Choosing the later Grace is once again returned to a situation where she feels anger towards her mother, but this time imbued with some greater knowledge from her near death experience. This allows her to begin the healing process with her mother. When their relationship is again tested by Annie?s infidelity, it seems as though Grace may not yet be ready to handle it, and the relationship may be irreparably destroyed. However, a final sacrifice from Tom Booker allows Grace to once again visit death, and once again glean knowledge from it. Taking this knowledge Grace is finally able to reconcile her relationship with Annie and the healing process is complete.