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Joan DIdion, At the Dam summary

Since 1967 Joan Didion has not been able to forget the Hoover Dam. Didion could be in a totally different place and the Dam will suddenly emerge in her mind. She may hear the turbines, or see the shadow of the cables, or sometimes she even wonders what could be happening at the Dam right now; “At this precise intersection of time and space”, what could possibly be happening at the Hoover Dam. Before Didion had even thought of the Dam, how it would someday captivate her so vividly she would never forget its haunting sight, the world thought of it first.

It was an idea that sat in the world’s mind for 40 years. The Hoover Dam is a attraction of the Boulder Canyon project. Didion pointed out that the Dam was “fait accompli” an accomplished fact; something that started out as an idea and grew into something bigger. It was now a solid fact that “mankinds greatest promise lay in american engineering. ” After talking about the initial effect the Dam has on her, she then describes the history of when she visited the dam and the history of the Dam itself.

In building this monument 96 men had died; thus is one of the reasons why Didion believes the Dam derives an emotional effect. Another reason is because she believes the dam is timeless. For example the bronze sculptures that stand there, the flag moving throught the canyon winds, or even a pepsi-cola can clattering across the ground. However, Didion also believes that the history does not explain the intense emotional effect the dam brings her. She enlightens us by telling her story of when she revisited the Dam.

She went back to the dam and walked around with a man from the Bureau of Reclamation (2nd largest supporter of wholesale water). He took her through the parts of the dam many vistors don’t get to see. Didion explained that throughout the afternoon he would point out certain fetures but she was fixated on how alien the Dam felt to her; she felt as if she was in another world. Lastly Didion addresses of the overall effect the Dam has on anyone who may visit. She states that the Dam is basically beyond time and space.

Everywhere else in the world, when the ind was blowing, there was dust. However Didion did not notice any dust what she saw was “the rock and the dam and the little greasewood and a few garbage cans, their tops chained, banging against the fence. ” After that Didion realizes she did comprehend what she first witnessed. To Didion the Dam is a world we have not witnessed for there is no one there; it is in complete and absolute isolation. She realizes that the Dam seems so alien because beauty can seem that way when its isolation; it’s when she can truly appreciate beauty

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