Will Weston: From Taker To Leaver Essay, Research Paper
Will Weston: His transformation from “Taker” to “Leaver”
“One of the extraordinary things about human events is that the unthinkable becomes thinkable. – Salman Rushdie
The seceded Ecotopian nation and the country it came from can be categorized into two groups, “Takers” and “Leavers”. These terms are derived from Daniel Quinn’s novel, Ishmael. “Good. So henceforth I’m going to call the people of your [American] culture Takers and the people of all other cultures Leavers.” “You call your self civilized and all the rest primitive.” Upon entering Ecotopia, Will Weston is impressed, horrified and overwhelmed by the practices of Ecotopians. “Can things be as weird as they sound” and will he be able to “keep his sanity” among the madness he encounters? What Will does not know is that the longer he stays in Ecotopia, this “Leaver” society is going to challenge his “Taker” beliefs and mindset and ultimately change them for good.
Will is very cautious and defensive upon going into Ecotopia. He’s an American “Taker” traveling off into unknown “Leaver” territory and he is very suspicious of the Ecotopians. “Something peculiar is going on in this place. Can’t yet exactly locate the source of the feeling. The way people deal with each other -with me- keeps reminding me of something -but I don’t know what. Always takes me off guard, makes me feel I was confronted with some fine personal opportunity -a friendship, learning something’s important, love -which by then has just passed Will’s first impression of the Ecotopians is mixed. On one hand he thinks that they
have very novel ideas in regards to the way they live and when he thinks of them as savages because of many of their different practices. “Woke up sweating, hands clutched tight on dream spear. Wished I was home safe in New York. Savages!”
Many experiences with many different Ecotopians begin to change Will’s character and thinking from being a full blooded “Taker” into a peaceful, friendly “Leaver”. Will’s first encounter happens as he’s crossing the border from the U.S. into Ecotopia. “He snapped my passport shut, but held it in his hand. ‘Weston,’ he said, looking me in the eye, ‘you’re a writer. We count on you to use words carefully while you’re here. If you come back this way, maybe you’ll be able to use that word friend in good faith. We’d like that.’ He then smiled warmly and put out his hand. Rather to my surprise, I took it, and found a smile on my own face as well.” This experience with the passport agent shocks Will when the agent remains cheerful despite Will’s bad mood. The good humor and friendly attitude of the agent is so contagious that Will can’t help but smile.
Will has another experience like this when he goes to the wire office to send out his first article to the U.S. The young clerk gets the article and begins to read it and wants to talk with Will about it, but Will is only in the mood to fax his paper and leave. He reacts harshly to the clerk who apologizes and explains that he was only trying to be friendly and “wasn’t trying to be boorish”. Will then feels guilty for getting upset and lets the young man read the article. At the end of their conversation Will’s attitude is again changed and he can’t help but smile and thank the clerk.
The largest influence Will encounters while in Ecotopia is Marissa Brightcloud, a young, passionate, tree-loving woman. Will meets Marissa at the forest camp during his tour there and is instantly attracted to her. But he’s not attracted to her for the same reasons as his girlfriend or ex-wife. Marissa is unlike any woman he has ever met. She’s very serious, passionate, down to earth, and smart. She affects him in so many ways and changes his mind about a lot of his
ideas and feelings. Marissa’s style and warmth are unlike anything Will has ever known and it draws him very close to her. From her he learns about being one with nature, expressing yourself and feeling free. His “Taker” mindset of being smug, closed minded and scheduled is all lost as he spends time with Marissa. “Marissa’s got positively hypnotic powers: when she’s here I loose track of time, obligations, my American preconceptions.”
Another experience of Ecotopian living that changed Will from acting like a “Taker” into a “Leaver” occurred while he was living with his communal family. The group of writers he lives with is an extension of his real family. Their purpose is to be a support structure for each other. They are to be friends, loved-ones, parents, and lovers. They believe that this support helps people in their lives and always gives them a place to go when they are in trouble or just need some company. At first Will finds this way of living a bit strange, but it soon begins to grow on him. An example of this is when he helped clear the table and tried to do the dishes one evening. Will began to shuttle the dishes off quickly and get them into the sink. “‘My [Gosh] Will, said Lorna, ‘whatever are you doing, running a race?’ Everybody else laughed. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well, you’re hauling dishes like you were being paid by the dish. Very un-Ecotopian!’” The Ecotopian point of view is if that some thing is worth doing, it ought to be done in a way that’s enjoyable. Will finds this hard at first, but ultimately ends up relaxing and taking up the “Leaver” Ecotopian ways and has fun doing the dishes.
Will and Bert got into a big fight one evening when Will took his article to the wire office without letting Bert read over it. “‘I offered to work with you as a brother. That was important. Do you have any idea of how competitive and detached you seem to us?’ He was furious and I had the uncomfortable feeling he was right -I had missed an important opportunity.” Will realizes that his opportunity to receive help and comments about his paper was very important. From this he begins to see that his “family” is there to help him. This revelation is
just another experience Will has that chips away at his outer shell of being “Taker” to reveal the “Leaver” that is within.
While talking with Bert one night, Will’s perception of his world and the Ecotopian world are put into a different perspective:
“Our system meanders on it’s peaceful way, while your has constant convulsions. I think of our as like a meadow in the sun. There’s a lot of change going on -plants growing, other plants dying, bacteria decomposing them, mice eating seeds, hawks eating mice, a tree beginning to grow and shat the grasses. But the meadow sustains itself on a steady-state basis -unless men come along and mess it up.”
Will begins to see that the Ecotopian way of life can seem like it changes constantly, but if you look at it from a bigger perspective, you’ll see that it’s not so hectic and that in fact, it’s the American way of life is the truly hectic one.
All of these experiences slowly pushed Will toward thinking and acting like a “Leaver”, but the final push that put him over the edge happened during his kidnapping. Will decided to “kill some time by putting [his] clothes in order”. He took out his American suit and laid it out on the bed. Then, just fooling around, he decided to put on his shirt to see what he looked like. He finished up by putting on the whole two-piece suit. As he caught his reflection in the mirror Will says, “I looked awful. I didn’t look human. I finished tying the tie, and put on the jacket besides, and went over to the mirror again. This time the ugly American me was almost sickening- I really thought I might have to throw up.” After six weeks of being surrounded by the Ecotopian society, beginning to feel at home, and adopting many of the “Leaver” characteristics; Will puts on his old clothes and is reminded of how he used to be. He was the ugly American who upheld all the beliefs of “Takers”. And when he sees himself again after living in the “Leaver”
world he is horrified and doesn’t even think of himself as a human. He’s learned that the world he came from does not uphold the beliefs he’s come to accept and live out in these past six weeks. He sees the horrible person that he used to be and instantly wants to part of it any more. He knows now that his place is right here in Ecotopia. For the past couple weeks he knew deep down that he should stay here, but couldn’t bring himself to admit it openly. Not until he is shown is former self, does he admit his true feelings and decide to stay in Ecotopia.
The one thing Will Weston never expected to happen as he went on assignment in Ecotopia did happen. He was influenced and changed by these so- called savages. He was changed from a typical American “Taker” into an Ecotopian “Leaver”. His ideas about love, life and friendship were all changed in a matter of six weeks. He learned what it meant to live in harmony with nature and to be one with your fellow Ecotopians. We should only hope that Americans could do the same.