The Theme of Loneliness in the Story Walden by Henry David Thoreau
“Our life is frittered away by detail.” As individuals, we center much of our consciousness on the materialistic aspects of life which renders us blind to its more salient features. We need to live in a simplified manner in order to perceive all that living has to offer. Thoreau contemplated the theory that we require nature and being near it within his works. The essays from Walden reflect the ideas of Transcendentalism in the way that they put emphasis on spiritual development and comprehension as opposed to worldly pleasures.
Thoreau was a transcendentalist who’s ideas accentuated the significance of creation and being close to Mother Nature. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primary of the spiritual over the material. On July 4th of 1845, Thoreau moved into a small house near the shores of Walden pond to conduct a two-year experiment on simple living. “I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” We squander much of our time on meaningless, money-oriented possessions which do nothing more than divert our cognizance, ultimately leaving us less spiritually aware. We’re all disembodied spirits of low consciousness in need of blinders so as to finally prioritize the most momentous changes in relation to living as opposed to societal pressures, expectations, etc. Materialism fills a void. We must repent and fill this emptiness with intent, objective, and challenges. Materialistic assets obstruct our view on the most consequential facets of living and we wind up in a state of somnambulism apropos life.
Multitudinous individuals have stopped moving to the rhythms of nature and become heedless due to an artificial world we tend to fabricate. We relinquish our sentience and are never truly compos mentis. “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.” Everyday provides us each with a renewed opportunity at crafting our souls morality. We hold the intention of leading a more fulfilling life while disregarding experiences yet to be ascertained. An infinite expectation of the dawn essentially signifies a new beginning for oneself with the intention of awakening and elevation of our lives. One could surmise they’re wide awake while their soul still slumbers. We are obliged to enhance our connection to nature as well as one another in this world for the purpose of perceiving the idea that it’s the smaller, seemingly trifling interactions which truly nourish our soul and aid in establishing our destiny and moral outlook. “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” When crafted, the soul is capable of making changes in not only the substantial parts of life but “even in the details.”
In relation to transcendentalism, Walden reflects the idea of preserving one’s “blank slate.” It’s theorized that the human mind is incapable of processing data at birth but later develops rules for adding and processing data as formed solely by the sensory experiences of an individual. Our experiences in life shape our outlook on ourselves and the world around us. Living life among civilization many times results in unnecessary complexity and we don’t live in a way that allows us to truly grasp knowledge or useful experiences for that matter. “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” If we would just live simply, we wouldn’t be subjected to such a high rate of problems for the reason that we’d no longer allow ourselves to become controlled by our materialistic belongings as well as the work it takes to afford said possessions. It is vital that we assert ascendancy of ourselves over our chattels. Frankly, if we were fully adamant on the aspects of simplification, we’d not be so distressed and doleful at all times which would provide for improved time management as well as personal development. “The fibers of all things have their tensions and are strained like the strings of an instrument.”There’s plenty of time within a day to go out into nature and do some self evaluation as well as connection with creation for the sake of easing the overtask and tensity. We undergo constant crippling affliction which is ostensibly significant in the concept of self refinement. Perhaps, we musn’t suffer in the interest of assimilating the magnitude of lucidity but instead be more in touch with mother nature. “Nature is full of genius, full of divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”
To conclude, spiritual development and maturation must be prioritized. So that one may flourish, simplicity and connection with creation are manifestly inescapable. As individuals, we must know who we are and where we stand in this universe for the purpose of facing it readily. The coherence of Transcendentalism is clear despite its modest questionability and Walden reflects its ideas in a way that provides a sense of perspicuity.
When Good is Bad
Walden was written in the spirit to prove that man could live on much fewer expenses and thus the effort a man put into earning the money to buy them was unnecessary. Before diving deeper, Thoreau fails to point out that one of his friends owned Walden Pond and the surrounding land. Without his friend’s help, his experiment might have been cut short. In his experiment, Thoreau moved to live in a small shack with only a few tools he took from his house in civilization alone. For two years, he lived off selling his produce in a small farm he started, patching up his clothes to prevent buying new ones. His life was simple, uncomplicated. Yet, it was the most fulfilling and rewarding. Thoreau was able to reap his own efforts without the interruption of mortgage companies and debt.
Perhaps if one looks beyond everything, the experiment in itself is the epitome of self-centeredness. Thoreau is unbothered by anyone and lives in near isolation. The subject of his study is himself, but it made me ponder whether it was truly negative in the pursuit of truth. Through this book, Thoreau demonstrates incredible self reliance. Even when he borrows from others, he returns the item in better quality than before. However, within my first sentence lies a contradiction which some readers enjoy pointing out. How hypocritical it is to live on someone else’s land with tools that belong to others while simultaneously claiming to be self reliant. But Thoreau never claims to be anyone he is not and only stands by his beliefs. He is not overwhelmingly adamant about never seeking help from others and always aims to return favours. He seeks an absolutely individual stance toward everything, looking for the truth not in social conventions or inherited traditions but only in himself.
Even in the materialistic society that Thoreau lives in, he is able to look past that and discover that true fulfilment does not cost a dime. The simplicity he practices in life does not hinder him from enjoying such pleasures but instead, facilitates them. As someone who was sitting in a comfortable chair surrounded by all the objects that Thoreau would have labelled as wasteful while reading his book centered on minimalism and self reliance, his beliefs resonated with me. It led me to realize the importance of understanding one self and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived, as Thoreau would say. Though I do not plan to follow Thoreau’s footsteps by going into the woods, I too wish to deliberately live my life to the fullest.
The Main Concepts of Civil Disobedience Expressed by Thoreau
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves”. Henry Thereau wrote this statement in his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” that corresponds to his book “Walden”. The disobedience he refers to in this quote is civil disobedience that he has talked about in both, his book and essay. Civil disobedience is violating the law ethically. It is an act of refusal to follow the laws, rules, or a person in authority but in a peaceful approach to achieve specific demands. Nonviolent ways that are used in civil disobedience are picketing, protesting peacefully, boycotting, and refusal to pay taxes (Thoreau, 1849). Civil disobedience and protesting are a right in every country that its society has the freedom of speech. I believe that civil disobedience is the ultimate civilized way to express the rejection of injustice laws and rejection of the people in power.
Thoreau opens his essay with “That government is best which governs least” believing that government should be expedient for the citizens to reach their needs and rights and the minimum number of governments means the most freedom. This justifies the moral need for civil disobedience because the government has no right to impose on the citizens’ laws that are against their principles, beliefs, morals, and values. He also sees that there is a moral difference between practicing injustice and failing to prevent injustice explained by the Mexican war. The Mexican war was created by eminent individuals that have manipulated the government to their benefit against the citizens’ will. According to Thoreau, this is an oppressed and corrupted act by the government since a moral will that was imposed on all citizens whether they are with or against it. He also believes that people that are against the war in Mexico but pay taxes are part of this injustice and have a hand in the war but instead, they should boycott the taxes that the government has put. Citizens can express and protest against their government’s will for war by refusing to pay taxes the same way soldiers refuse to fight an unjust war. Thoreau believes in three types of men in every country, those who serve with their body such as soldiers and martyrs, those who serve with their brains and heads, and finally those who serve with their conscious which is the best way to serve because they do with their mind and are aware of the injustice acts and stand against it (Thoreau, 1849). He also ensures that a responsible man does not avoid punishment or prison for his mistakes but instead he breaks the law and gets imprisoned for breaking the law that supports unjust decisions or actions by the government. He advocates for the need of prioritizing your personal ethics and values over the dictated laws by the government (Thoreau, 1849).
Like Thoreau, I believe that civil disobedience is acceptable since it is our duty as citizens to stand up and accept only what we believe in (Thoreau, 1849). Just like Rosa Parks as a citizen refused to give up her bus seat due to her skin color and how Martin Luther King Junior leads protests and marches that advocate for civil rights, all these events caused social change through civil disobedience acts (Bedau, 2002). Civil disobedience is a duty of every citizen to fight for what is right and fight against what is wrong even if it was an unjust law. Right or wrong acts are not justified by-laws, not every law prohibits what is wrong and promotes what is right. It is every person’s duty to break the law if it is believed by that person that the law is unjust, it is standing up for your values and for what you believe in (Thoreau, 2009). Thoreau refers to civil disobedience in his essay as a duty and not a right because he believes that it is the citizen’s right to consent that their taxes are waged for war. He also believed that individual liberty surpasses the state’s liberty (Thoreau, 1849).
Henry Thoreau, a canonical American literary figure, questioned in his essay what an honest citizen should do about a president that s/he wholeheartedly oppose but they won a majority. Should those who are against him remain silent? This is the case that Lebanon is currently experiencing. On November 17th, after thirty years of remaining silent on unjust acts that the government has been participating in starting from prohibiting the Lebanese from their basic rights to the money embezzlements that have been going on between the parliament members, the Lebanese citizens decided to revolt against all political parties and every member in the parliament peacefully. This act by the Lebanese citizens is a form of civil disobedience since it is composed of peaceful protests to ask for their rights even after the government tried multiple times to distort or politicize the revolution.
The Lebanese finally decided to fight the passive democracy that they have been living in through civil disobedience. The protests and actions that have been taking place in the last month all over Lebanon had a very positive take off change in our country compared to the 30 years of oppression that the citizens were living in. In the past month, all citizens that are part of the revolution decided to their political hats and leave their religious shawl at home by just going down to the streets asking for freedom and government’s resignation. The Lebanese have been depending on the government for the past thirty years to fulfill their promises, but then they got fed up with their lies and decided to act up and ask for their basic rights as citizens. The Lebanese decided to be noble citizens not by respectfully subordinating to their government but they have thought for themselves for an administration’s life and this is how they started thinking independently, independent from religion and independent from political parties. They have become patriots, not the kind that blindly follows their government but those who follow their consciences and their principles of reason. They’ve come to the realization that they were serving the devil without intending it by paying their taxes and following them even to death. It is true that the government is the one who they elected a couple of years ago but this does not determine that all that the government does is righteous and just and we shouldn’t do anything but wait until the next elections. The people of Lebanon decided to do something, they decided to revolt and advocate because it is not a crime to be an individual and ask for your basic rights.
Peaceful protests, such as the ones that are currently going on in Lebanon exist or have existed previously all over the world with some being successful and others failing. The current peaceful protests, peaceful from the citizens’ side, taking place all over Lebanon are socio-economical revolt acts and not geopolitical zones. We are used to witnessing political protests in Lebanon for the sake of one political party against another, but this time it was different. It was for all citizens to come together for the sake of raising their voice under one goal that the government all must come down as it has failed for the past thirty years in general, and the past three years in specific to guarantee their basic rights. The government has not only failed to give the citizens their basic rights, but they have also increased their taxes, and for what in return? For nothing, literally nothing.
This form of protesting is on the edge of being viable in a country like Lebanon. It has achieved a lot in a little time but the doubts of the complete success of the revolution remain undetermined and even mostly null. It does not look like a success every time a political party talks to the citizens as if he has not been listening to them. Every time they talk to the citizens, they question the reasons for their presence on the streets. It also doesn’t look so promising when the government tries to fight the people on the street, and definitely does not look so promising when the army and some politicians try to use violence on the citizens that are protesting peacefully.
Your Promise to Walden
Each experience we have throughout our lives, negative or positive, is an opportunity to learn and grow. From those experiences, we make changes, adapt, and adjust. If we look at them in a positive light, we can actually move our lives forward and become better people. Education is extremely important in today’s World. Surrounding yourself with successful, driven, and encouraging people will only benefit you; finding a school that contains people like that is your best bet for academic success.
Today I am
School has been a part of my identity from the very beginning; if you aren’t learning, you aren’t moving forward. I have always considered myself very book-smart and I quite enjoy learning and attending classes. Education is something that I pride myself on, and who I am as a student is important to me. As a Walden student, I am a young woman, looking to further her life, even though she doesn’t know where she wants to go in life. As a Walden student, I am getting back into a further education while some knowledge is still fresh. I am taking advantage of having time to myself, without children or a husband, to invest in my future and my intelligence.
Walden has provided a plethora of tools to help their students succeed. This class is a great example of how important it seems to be to Walden as an institution for their students to do well. The entire first six weeks of school at Walden is dedicated to teaching students what they need to succeed and having them each figure out a plan to do just that. Walden’s library provides access to any literary resources you will need throughout your school career. Also, Walden’s advisors are very involved, friendly, and helpful throughout application, classes, and beyond. There is even a writing center that will help you edit your papers, or help you with any formatting questions you may have. By providing all of this help and then teaching us how to access and use it, it is essentially making it impossible for us to fail. By taking the guess-work out of finding help, and figuring out how to do things correctly, all the time we have as students can be dedicated to learning and completing the work to the best of our abilities.
While I consider myself already pretty tech savvy, this class has been about more than just that. Critical thinking is a big component of HMNT1001. Also, it has helped to foster a safe environment to practice locating, accessing, and implementing all of the resources Walden provides. Even the assignments directly tie into our success plan for school. In one assessment, I was able to get a clearer idea of what my learning style is, which helps me to recognize my strengths and plan accordingly. All of the things being taught about ourselves in this class will help not only in school, but moving forward in life as well.
I Promise To
I promise, to my classmates, my teachers, and most importantly myself, that I will not give up on my education. Knowledge is one of the most important things to me, so I promise not to walk away from school again without proving myself, to myself. I promise to seek out help and promote good study habits for myself throughout my school career. I will use the resources that Walden so kindly and blatantly set out before me to my advantage and take to heart all of the constructive criticism that my instructors offer me. I vow to use my knowledge to help others whenever possible, and to promote a better self to create a better world. I will change the world in a positive way, even if it is just by my personal contact with one person at a time.
How I Will Become Part of the Walden Community
To continue implementing all of the things I mentioned that I learned above, and to find someone who will hold me accountable for all the promises I made previously, I will need a mentor. After completing the Support Network Exercise in week two, I learned that my support network is rather shallow. I hope as my classes become more course specific, and I begin to find like-minded students who share similar aspirations with me that I will find someone traveling the same path as I am that inspires me. I plan to reach out to people in my classes to get advice, brainstorm with, and eventually connect with a mentor if possible. Because of my tendency to procrastinate, I need someone who is aware of what I need to be doing, and that will hold me accountable for the work that I need to do. I hope to find a mentor who will not take my excuses, and will constantly remind me that I am capable of anything and should be achieving at that standard.
School and education are one of the top priorities in my life right now. I believe the choice you make in schools is nearly as important as the type of degree you go to school for. With Walden I believe that I have chosen a school that actually cares about my academic success, and has set me up to succeed. I will hold on to all of the information I have learned about myself, as well as all the general information taught in this course and use it to benefit me in my life, and my schoolwork moving forward. By working at being the best person and student as I can be, I hope to inspire others along the way, causing change in this world for the better, for myself and as many others as possible.
Isolation as a Tool for Self-improvement in Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Isolation: Knowledge of Oneself Beyond What Society Could Ever Teach
Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” announces that Thoreau spent two years in Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, living a simple life supported by no one. The episode was both experimental and temporary. A way in which Thoreau was able to observe his own surroundings all while analyzing society. It was how he was able to learn more about himself by separating himself from his usual space. Throughout this paper, I will support Thoreau’s experiment and argue that through isolation, one is able to gain knowledge of who they are and how they think in a way that society could never teach.
Henry David Thoreau challenges his readers to go back to nature and to remember that the simplicities in life are what make it whole. I found this experiment to be thought-provoking and brave. Thoreau’s concept of “necessities” struck me right away: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel are the basic gifts that nature itself can provide. The way I see it, this idea of minimalism could be and should be applied to the modern era. Today’s society is filled with anxiety over mass consumption, always wanting more of what we don’t “need” in the first place. Once a person removes himself/herself from their environment will they be able to analyze the pros and cons of their given situation. I can relate to Thoreau in this way. I appreciated Thoreau’s notion that “it is never too late to give up our prejudices.” (Thoreau, 5) He challenges people to have an open mind and to live life differently than they had been before. I think if we as a people conducted more “experiments” in our own life by changing out behaviors, everyday routines, and weighed the pros and cons of that change, we would be better off. In our society today, people are so stuck in their ways, they think they know anything and everything. This cloud’s the mind’s progression so we become stagnant.
Thoreau confirms my previous thoughts on isolation when he states that he has to abandon “the world”, including human society, in order to discover himself.
Not till we are completely lost, or turned round- for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost- do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as be awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.
If one goes beyond themselves and their daily activities in their surrounding environment, they will soon enough find who they are. This can only be done by removal. Thoreau states that people more often than not people unconsciously go through their lives guided by routine. He says that once one breaks that, he/she will be able to clearly see their rut. Also, by removing oneself from society, will they be able to appreciate what extends their bubble. Nature extends the everyday human societal bubble. Nature is the leading catalyst for change. A person will be stuck until they surrender their initial perspective and change their guiding lens and lose themselves fully. Once a person loses themselves fully, they will be able to see what their reality is and alter their routine to eventually change who they are. Humans don’t appreciate the “vastness and strangeness” of nature due to the fact that they don’t allow themselves to get lost in the first place.
Thoreau makes the claim that when we allow ourselves to separate from society and normal environments and get lost in another world, we will be able to see where we are, who we are, and where we are going. Isolation is the way in which humans reflect on their past and the decisions they have made. Isolation may scare some, but experiencing total silence and disconnecting completely from any form of “normalcy” provides peace and relaxation. Distractions throughout our days can be addicting. Humans find themselves at a point of being so busy and stressed that they can’t think straight or control their emotions. Embracing solitude is an essential way to critically think and make decisions that will have an effect on the present. One must figure out where to have this period of isolation and take full advantage of it. I think the reason why people don’t view isolation as a positive experience is due to society’s skewed perception of it. It has been considered an inconvenience, something to avoid, a punishment, a realm of loners. I think humans view it as damaging because most don’t like to be alone. However, isolation, when pursued by choice, can be therapeutic. In other words, when people remove themselves from their social context of their lives, they are able to see how they’re shaped by that context. Alone time should not be something that one is afraid of. I won’t doubt that it takes work before it turns into a pleasant experience. But once it does it becomes the most important relationship, the relationship you have with yourself. By having a relationship with yourself, you are able to learn what you appreciate and what you don’t. You will be able to get in touch with your emotions, what you are and are not sensitive to. This important relationship will also benefit your relationships with others.
Markus Poetzch’s article “Sounding Walden Pond: The Depths and “Double Shadows” of Thoreau’s Autobiographical Symbol”, argues that Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” serves as an autobiographical symbol and a polysemic text that emphasizes the quest for self discovery and pilgrimage. The pond becomes a “reflection of spiritual birth and ethical reform.”(Poetzsch, 387) According to Poetzsch, the pond functions as a “guide or prophet, eternally reflecting (on) the sidereal hemisphere, and subjectively like a conscience, a pure distillation of law.”(387) He argues that for Thoreau, the pond is more than a mirror of the physical world but in fact an intimate pool of thought in which he realizes who he is within the greater realm of nature and his society surrounding the natural environment:
Under these terms, the pond represents more than a mirror of the physical world; it is an inner pool of thought, an element of mental topography in which the author’s self is realized and reified. Walden as text thus becomes a travelogue of Thoreau himself, something like a collection of snapshots in which his hair or fingers constantly start, across the lens, or perhaps, a portrait in which he captures himself holding the camera above the glassy rim of water.(388-398)
Poetzsch feels that Thoreau’s pond is more than a reflection of the world around Thoreau, but it is how Thoreau can further see himself as an extension of the outside world. He states that Thoreau can learn who he is within the greater realm of society outside of nature, basically, who Thoreau really is and how the world around him influences his thoughts. The pond serves as a symbol for self reflection instead of the physical world’s reflection. Thoreau is able to capture who he is, instead of focusing on society. It is a personal experience that Thoreau has to endure alone in order to examine his inner thoughts and inner soul. Poetzsch has come to a smart and well thought out conclusion of the pond. It is interesting to observe how the physical world can impact one’s thoughts and inner self. The case made allows the reader to critique their own world and who they are within their own surrounding environment. If more people created a space of isolation: taking a trip, taking a walk, or simply closing one’s bedroom door, a brand new perspective will become apparent. This is due to one’s heightened awareness of the self because there are no “outside” distractions. Humans must find their own “pond” in order to grow and change the shape of who they are and how they allow their minds to wander and shift the perception of their life. By doing this, one may offer a skewed view of the world and through conversation of their findings, possibly add a solution to change. A change that will better overall society. A change in oneself, will help others question their own beliefs, experiences, and thought process. It’s an ongoing manipulation of who one is, who they want to be, and who they will become. Isolation is the leading force behind change.
Thoreau’s pond is a mirror for himself and through isolation he is able to process his own critical self-discovery. Markus Poetzsch describes Walden Pond as a “bottomless symbol precisely because it subverts the truth of a single perspective in a single moment in time.”(396) It’s because of the pond’s “transparency and purity”(397) that it presents itself to be bottomless and it enables a reversal of perspective. This is a key element in which Thoreau is able to notice a shift in his beliefs but this does not promote anxiety, instead, it’s a calming force that brings clarity. The pond teaches Thoreau to examine the world and realize that one’s experiences are subjective. They are relative to each individual’s current situation. Poetzsch says that without the pond, Thoreau would be unable to come to such realizations, “the pond always maintains the self in the intermediate position between heaven and earth. This allows Thoreau not only to find himself but also to recognize himself in relation to others.”(398) The realization of where he is, what is above and below him, both humbles Thoreau and consoles. “It’s permanence, depth, unsullied purity, and sensitivity on the slightest movement upon its surface enable the reflection of any life, any subject.”(399) I have come to the conclusion that without the pond, Thoreau would not be able to reflect on his choices that have led up to his time at Walden. It is a vital part of the self discovery process. It makes clear what is necessary and what is not. The pond promotes a simplistic and minimal lifestyle without the clutter that society brings. The pond does not mirror societal pressure and promotes inner peace because of the realizations it makes clear.
Thoreau states that he enjoys and embraces his alone time, he describes it as a “wholesome” experience. “
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between man and his fellows. (Solitude)
This passage from the section titled, Solitude it describes the difference between loneliness by choice and loneliness when surrounded by others. Thoreau states that even when we are with others, we are still alone. The company of others promotes anxious thoughts and worries. Thoreau says he loves to be alone because isolation is his best companion. When people go out into society they feel more alone than when they are inside by themselves. Solitude is encouraged by Thoreau due to the fact that it allows a person to think. The ability to think without the persuasion of other’s thoughts. When one is alone, they don’t need to think about pleasing others or worrying what other’s will think of them. The individual needs alone time because it is the time in which one can become best friends with themselves. Humans need to re-learn how to be isolated. The need to remind ourselves that a time existed before instant communication and interaction with others. Humans need to spend time alone to center themselves and regain a grasp on the importance of life before they can dive back into society. Thoreau encourages readers to find a sanctuary. To catch a breath and find a tranquil space to allow one’s mind to roam. I agree that there is a big difference in being alone and being lonely. I acknowledge that Thoreau is simply alone. He enjoys his time spent contemplating everything in the universe. It is also evident that Thoreau makes a claim that solitude is more of a state of mind than an actual physical circumstance. Solitude means that one empties the “busy work” in order to confront the reality of the world. One can only achieve such an altered perspective through separation from external, societal pressure.
An Issue of Charity in Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Philanthropy in Thoreau’s Walden
When you first start reading Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, there are so many things that demand to analyze. The multiple topics that exist within the book are numerous, yet there are several that stick out amongst the rest. One of these is Thoreau’s views on the practice of philanthropy. Some people do not appreciate philanthropy very much, which Thoreau acknowledges by stating that people tend to see, “often the poor man is not so cold and hungry as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his taste, and not merely his misfortune,” (80, Thoreau). It is this attitude that Thoreau challenges in Walden for multiple reasons. In general it was the philanthropic gift he received shortly before embarking for Walden Pond from his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson that helped him shape his views on philanthropy. This act of philanthropy influenced his opinions of those who embrace philanthropy, what he believed were the best forms of philanthropy and why it is such an important part of society. All in all, when examining Thoreau’s writings in Walden at Walden Pond, focusing on the idea of philanthropy, it becomes clear that the actions of his friend would influence Thoreau and be present in his writing and reflections for years to come.
Before Henry David Thoreau went to live at Walden Pond, he had certain opinions on Philanthropy that would become more clear and developed during his experience at the Pond. However, all of these decisions were no doubt influenced by a philanthropic act that he experienced right before moving to Walden Pond, for without this act there would have been no Walden at all. Thoreau had always been very good friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, their relationship falling somewhere between best friends and that of a father and son (Smith). The fathering role was held by Emerson who, “felt a strong sense of responsibility toward him,” (95, Smith). This bond grew in strength shortly after Thoreau lost his brother and Emerson opened his home to his grieving friend (Smith). During this time of mourning, Emerson realized that his friend felt lost and was in need of some sort of retreat away from the world and to a simpler place (Salt). Some where he could think, read, and write; hopefully regaining some of his old personality back as well. When he heard that his friend Thoreau wanted to, “go away soon and live by the pond,” (62, Salt), he knew what he had to do to save his friend from the sad depressive state he had fallen into since the death of his brother and his nearly complete encasement in a crowded, urban environment (Salt). Shortly after that instance, and without being asked or asking for anything in return, “Emerson himself… had bought land on both sides of Walden Pond,” (64, Salt). This could be considered one of the most perfect Philanthropic acts, as Emerson is giving a person he cares about a gift that will bring him a great deal of joy despite any personal sacrifice. Emerson’s action helped Thoreau form an idea of philanthropy, though it was not his first experience with charity. Because this occurred right before he went to go live at Walden Pond and he was experiencing the benefits of his gift while staying there, he judged those who performed charitable actions favorably. He was especially favorable toward those who had gotten to know an individual and learn what they needed rather than simply making a monetary contribution to some philanthropic organization. However, Emerson did not stop there.
After making the purchase of the land surrounding Walden Pond, Emerson had original intended to build a summer house for himself and his family on the property. However after discussing the situation with a friend, Emerson went to Thoreau with an Idea (Smith). He discussed Thoreau’s current temperament and said he believed he had found the solution that would give him the fresh outlook on life he desired. Emerson came up with a proposition that, “Henry build a one-room house on his land in which to write a book,” (100, Smith). This proposal was welcomed by Thoreau, as it allowed him to get away from the crowded city he had come to hate and would be in a place he had come to love, Walden Pond (Salt). Also, it meant that while he resided there and in his reflection looking back years later in his book Walden, he saw a great deal of his experience through a lens that reminded him that a philanthropic act was responsible for the reason he was able to have these experience. It was not just the fact that this experience was possible, but the fact that it had been given to Thoreau as a gift, that he had not had to ask for and was not expected to repay that influenced his writing. Not only the two years he lived by the pond, but for the rest of his life he would remember the warmth he felt in the glow of the philanthropic gesture of a friend. The experiment was without a doubt a successful one, as Walden Pond became for Thoreau, “what Brook Farm was to others of the Transcendentalists-a retreat suitable for philosophic meditation and the practice mediation, and the practice of a simpler hardier, and healthier life,” (65, Salt). It healed the parts of his soul that had been broken for so long in the wake of his brother’s death. This belief is also evident in his reflections in Walden when he states, “I had several more lives to live,” (351, Thoreau) which implies he felt rejuvenated and was able to look at life and the world around him with fresh eyes. With the knowledge as to why he was able to have this experience fresh in his mind, it is obvious why Thoreau was focused on the idea of philanthropy while writing Walden.
In general, most people think of being charitable or philanthropic, they imagine writing a big check to charity; however throughout the book it becomes evident that Thoreau did not share this point of view after his real life experiences. Early in his book Walden, Thoreau expresses the belief that, “philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind,” (81, Thoreau). Thoreau had some definite opinions as to what truly counts as philanthropy towards mankind, and did not seem to think along those lines. When he sees a poor Irish laborer fall into a frozen pond near his house, he invited him in to warm himself. It was then that he realized that the warmth was all the man needed. While watching the man clean himself up and warm himself by the fire, he realized that, “it would be greater charity to bestow on me a flannel shirt than a whole slop-shop on him,” (80, Thoreau). The phrasing suggests to the reader, that Thoreau feel’s the man he would benefit more from the simple act of receiving a dry shirt; rather than just receiving an assortment of random articles of different sizes most of which would be useless to him. Also, Thoreau had helped this man by taking action and not by simply writing a check. The money may have helped him in the future, but it would have done little to keep him from freezing to death in the middle of the woods unlike the dry clothes. What Thoreau wanted us to understand was that while philanthropic donations help, philanthropic actions help even more. This was something that was evidently on his mind, because of Emerson’s gift of the land surrounding Walden Pond (Salt). There are a great many philanthropic actions that a person can undertake and be seen as sufficient in Thoreau’s eyes. For example, he points out that, “some show their kindness to the poor by employing the in their kitchens,” (81, Thoreau) as being a viable act of philanthropy. This belief may not seem that ground breaking, until you realize that slavery, which Thoreau was completely against, was considered a form of charity by those south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and even a few north of it. While he was living at Walden Pond, Thoreau wrote about how, “critique of charity to slavery, lauding and defending Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in contrast to the ‘philanthropy’ of the slaveholder and those Northern capitalists who were implicated in Southern slavery,” (Brown). Thoreau was extremely against slavery, and publically spoke out against it on multiple occasions. The fact that a majority of southern plantation owners felt that they were doing the philanthropic and charitable thing by owning slaves disgusted him. Once this fact is understood, the fact that Thoreau stated he wanted people to employ and pay those working in their kitchens takes on an entirely new meaning. He is in fact, stating that what these slave owners are doing is not only un-philanthropic, but something he considers very wrong. Thoreau had some distinct opinions about not only philanthropic acts, but those who performed them.
The acts and philosophy behind philanthropy was not the only thing that Thoreau contemplated while residing at Walden Pond. The people who embraced philanthropy as part of their lives appeared to greatly fascinate him, perhaps because it reminded him of his friend Emerson. It is true that he expresses the belief that philanthropy is, “greatly overrated; and it is our selfishness which overrates it,” ( 81, Thoreau), implying that humanity as a whole tends to use philanthropy as a way to make others think well of use for donating to charity. But, that belief is overshadowed by his high esteem for those who choose to embrace philanthropy and practice at the very least small acts of it throughout their lives. This is made especially clear when he goes on to claim that, “a thousand striking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root,” (80, Thoreau), in rearguards to those who performed philanthropic acts. What he meant was that while many people are trying to make a difference, only those few who embrace philanthropy and devote their lives to it come close to really ending poverty and cruelty. It is these people that Thoreau truly seems to admire as he contemplates philanthropy at Walden Pond. He certainly thought about them while residing at Walden, where he wrote about how after a natural disaster a group of people, “collected funds to reward citizens on the Cape who braved its storms to rescue sailors and passengers who would otherwise have been lost at sea,” (Brown) showing how he felt those who had undertaken philanthropic actions should be treated. Thoreau wanted us to reward those who, despite any personal inconvenience went out of their way to help others in need, specifically by doing some sort of action rather than simply making a donation. Yet, it is this group of people that dedicate their lives and fortunes to charity whom he fears for the most. By constantly making sacrifices in their own lives in order to improve the lives of others, Thoreau believes that, “he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve,” (80, Thoreau). In other words, he felt that while philanthropic actions are good, he does not want those performing them to overdo it. If one person takes on too much, or gives away more than they can afford to, then they may become part of the poor wretched masses they are trying to save. While Through may encourage individuals to participate in more philanthropic enterprises in their lives, he does not wish for them to sacrifice their own security and wellbeing for the cause. That being said, Thoreau still values these people and what they do greatly. After all, these people had gone out of their way in order to find out what a person needed and provide them with that need. After Emerson had done a very similar thing for him by providing Thoreau with the area around Walden Pond to retreat to, Thoreau began to see this as the ultimate form of philanthropy. While residing at Walden Pond, Thoreau fully embraces the belief that he should, “merely demand justice for all who by their lives and work are a blessing to mankind,” ( 81, Thoreau). What he meant was that those who dedicate their lives to philanthropy and do not attempt to gain recognition or praise from it, are the ones who deserve the most praise. This is because; they are going out of their way to help people without attempting to gain anything in return. Thoreau developed a sort of awe for those who dedicated their lives to philanthropy. He saw what they did, and the results of those actions as beautiful, and that viewpoint in itself is an incredible and beautiful thing.
When he was discussing Walden through the scope of philanthropy, there are so any factors and variables to analyze and consider. When you look at the novel from a historical perspective, it is easy to see why Thoreau was so focused on the subject, considering his ability to live at Walden Pond was one big philanthropic gesture. That fact on its own explains why he believed that philanthropy was one of humanities greatest virtues. At the same time, it explains why he was obviously in favor of philanthropic acts verses philanthropic donations. As well as his love and respect for those who dedicated their lives to philanthropic acts and why he wished only the best for them. After two years of contemplation, in many ways Thoreau, “was a student when he came to Walden; When he returned to Concord he was a teacher,” (84, Salt). This time of reflection existed, because of an act of philanthropy towards Thoreau, and as a result leads to him forming definite opinions on the subject that he shared with the world.
The Fundamental Statements of “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau is encouraging us to wake ourselves up spiritually. The original consciousness that he is referring to is likely an attitude in which one takes nature for granted and does not ‘awaken’ their heart and soul. Thoreau similarly stresses that this will lead to a more fulfilled life with no regrets. I believe that dawn represents hope with Thoreau using this to symbolize the ‘reawakening’ of one’s soul and the knowledge that they seek. I find this hard to analyze; what I can personally deduce is that even through one may have achieved successful materialistic goals, Thoreau believes that it is more “glorious” in life to work on your inner self which is the only way to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Although I agree with this, I believe that it is an unrealistic statement as modern societies have too much obstacles and mindsets obstructing this. Unfortunately, everyone will end their lives with regret or there was always be room for improvement.
Thoreau is comparing society to that of “chopping sea” in which one is forced along whatever current is in control. Because of the connotation to a storm, Thoreau is implying that society is dangerous. He is also suggesting that a simple life is more enjoyable, stating “I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” Furthermore, he also stresses that a better life involves improving yourself as a person and measuring your success through your own desires, not what society perceives to be successful and in acquired materialistic items.
Thoreau is emphasizing that people that conform and take paths that are already set out for them ultimately lose their individuality, spirit and personal aims. This is evident in the fact that millions of people live fake lives in order to escape ridicule from society. Many will post media of themselves online that does not portray their true self because they feel the need to be accepted by society. He is emphasizing and encouraging his readers to change routines so they can continue learning and growing as a person. His path was “still quite distinct” as his philosophy involved taking control and leading his life through his own path without negative influence from society.
Thoreau is implying that in order to life an enjoyable life, one must take a break from society and make their own decisions without external influences: “I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could see the moonlight.” Thoreau is expressing “liberal” views as he is evidently against conservative customs and societies and is encouraging everyone to take control of their life. Liberal views are that of freedom with less strict rules. Thoreau is not literally referencing laws as in punishment, but is stressing that in “liberal laws”, people should be more open-minded and focus on improving themselves. The significance that he is emphasizing is that we should not be bound by religion or strict laws. This phrase represents that the people that follow his transcendentalist philosophy: living off simple means, pursuing nature and nonconformity will elevate and become better people, the “higher order of beings”. I can deduce that Thoreau is speaking of building “castles in the air” as a metaphor of one’s aspirations and dreams. He is conveying that one cannot simply construct a castle on the air (nothing), but most have a plan and solid foundations. This is more logical and realistic advice as it puts emphasize on stability and will not encourage one to helplessly pursue their most wild goals without security.
Thoreau is writing in a hostile tone, using diction “dinning” to aggressively direct his declaration towards people that claim “moderns…are intellectual dwarves.” He is urging everyone to make their own choices and not judge everyone: “let everyone mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.”
He appears to be arguing that a wealthy man will have more problems and will ultimately be more unhappy compared to a poor man. He remarks that life “looks poorest when you are richest” emphasizing his views that a simple life leads to fulfillment. This analysis by Thoreau is often stressed by rich people who will often state that money cannot buy happiness. I disagree with this statement as I believe that one cannot hide behind a simple life as challenges are good and improve you as a person. One may indeed have some “pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse” but they will tend to have less independence and will be even more restricted by society. On the other hand, happiness and success do not depend on wealth. Thoreau has used the sunset and the melting of the snow to represent that nature is the biggest reward/sight that one can enjoy and that you do not need to be wealthy to witness it: “the setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode.” He is conveying that nature is no better for a rich man than it is for a poor man and they can thus have equally fulfilling lives.
Snakes and Different Creatures in Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Snakes and Other Creatures in Thoreau’s Walden
In Walden Pond, Thoreau certainly describes animals from an observatory standpoint more so than an integrated standpoint. While Thoreau does seem to gain genuine peace and friendship from the creatures around him, it is more apparent that they serve as representations of his relationships to people and society. In particular, Thoreau’s discussion of the snake implies a dark take on humanity in which our separation from nature has rendered us inept. It is the spring however, which redeems both man and the snake. Thoreau’s representation of the snake and other animals in Walden Pond primarily signifies his spiritual rebirth.
There is an interesting balance struck in Walden between the representation of animals as equals or instead as sanctioned curiosities for the purpose of observation. Although he entertained guests and went into town during his two years at Walden Pond, a majority of Thoreau’s time was spent alone. There is something to be said for nature, and in particular, animal life, serving as company for him in his journey. His descriptions of animals range from distanced observation to friendly amusement you might associate with friendship between humans. He writes for example, of the foxes: “They seemed to me to be rudimental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence, awaiting their transformation.” This passage in particular is extremely humanizing. He refers to them metaphorically as “burrowing men,” but more importantly likens their struggle in nature to possibly even a human existential one. The phrase ‘burrowing men’ who are ‘awaiting transformation’ conceptually echoes the uniquely human struggle to burrow towards an awakening in which we find meaning in life or achieve growth. Thoreau’s use of language here is just one example of the way in which his use of language allocates more dimensions to animals than is typically afforded. Conversely, Thoreau asserts that there is an “animal” part of all humans. As Francesca Osterero writes in her thesis on Walden Pond, “Moreover, animals represent the savage part rooted in all man. Within himself and all humans, Thoreau perceives two struggling natures: a wild, animal nature and a spiritual nature.” (5) In this way, Thoreau unifies humans and animals as spiritual parts of one another. This concept is an important base for the establishment of the snake as a symbolic representation of rebirth in Walden.
Similarly, Thoreau discusses a hare in these terms as well: “One had her form under my house all winter, separated from me only by the flooring, and she startled me each morning by her hasty departure when I began to stir–thump, thump, thump, striking her head against the floor timbers in her hurry.” Here, Thoreau alludes to a playful and touching morning ritual between himself and a hare. This interaction is undoubtedly reminiscent of one between human beings cohabitating. He even assigns the hare a gender, which rhetorically leads the reader to assign it more personality. Michelle C. Neely calls specific attention to Thoreau’s treatment of the hares. Neely writes:
Thoreau’s response to the rabbit’s childlike sound is to propose a more expansive motherhood that recognizes the “hare” as kin, as a child whose life should be protected; unlike most human “mothers,” Thoreau tells us, his “sympathies” do not stop at the species line. (126)
Neely has pinpointed the extremity of Thoreau’s emotional integration into the animal and natural world.
Thoreau’s account of the striped snake in the first chapter of Walden demonstrates his use of animals as allegorical for humanity’s devolution. Thoreau describes the snake’s state alongside the state of man, drawing parallels between the two. Like the snake that emerges from the winter still frozen and torpid, men bogged down by society lie in this same “low and primitive” state. Thoreau writes that “I saw a striped snake run into the water, and he lay on the bottom, apparently without inconvenience, as long as I stayed there, or more than a quarter of an hour; perhaps because he had not yet fairly come out of the torpid state.” The snake’s retreat into a frozen and torpid state is likened to man’s retreat from nature: they are stunted in ice, but preserved. Thoreau proceeds in the next line: “I had previously seen the snakes in frosty mornings in my path with portions of their bodies still numb and inflexible, waiting for the sun to thaw them.” Thoreau alludes to man’s emergence in spring, that the sun allows humans to achieve ethereal life. His simultaneous imagery of the snake emerging from numbness into the clarity of thawed spring is a direct parallel between man and nature. In his journal article “Walden Pond as a Symbol,” Melville E. Lyon addresses this motif, writing “The seasonal structure of the year provides the external structural principle for Walden. The two cycles provide two of its’ major symbols: spring and morning.” (289) The striped snake in this passage of Walden is a direct manifestation of the spring theme that Lyon refers to here.
Thoreau does place himself as a human being on a different plane than animals; despite the transcendentalist notion of assimilation to nature, there is certainly still human exceptionalism occurring in Thoreau’s work. Thoreau uses language in terms of “them,” the animals, versus himself as an outside entity. Here for example, Thoreau describes the way a bird eats with some degree of separation, as if the birds’ foolishness separates them from us. “They attempt to swallow in their haste a kernel which is too big for their throats and chokes them; and after great labor they disgorge it…” The language of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is isolating when used in conjunction with imagery in which an animal struggles for lack of heightened intelligence.
Thoreau’s snake metaphor, however, draws parallels between the spirituality of animals and the spirituality of man. In this way, he implies some thread of unspoken synch that both animals and humans adhere to, in effect placing us all on an equal plane. Thoreau’s depiction of the snake in the early Economy chapter of Walden is ultimately echoed with a human counterpart at the end of the book in his Spring chapter. Thoreau writes, “So our human life but dies down to its root, and still puts forth its green blade to eternity.” (233) Where before the snake had stood as a synecdoche for nature’s resilience on the whole, here Thoreau addresses humanity’s role directly. Human life, just like snake life and all other life, is cyclical. Spring is a unifying period of renewal, not just literally as with animals such as the snake, but spiritually. Lawrence Buell has noted this connection between spiritual renewal and spring in his book The Environmental Imagination. Buell writes:
This representation of a late, resurrecting spring was a happy coincidence of the local truth and the symbolic reality enforced throughout Euro-America by setting the Christian Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox. (242)
Here, Buell explains the religious origins of springtime symbolically. This religious association between man and spring is evident across Thoreau’s language. On page 209 he writes: “In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven.” Thoreau is drawing a direct parallel that spring is a time of not just renewal, but spiritual renewal.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Comparing the Significance and Symbolism of Nature
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary nature is define as, “The physical world and everything such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc., that is not made by people.” Many people in our society today would say nature is just animals, trees and rocks. Not many people deeply think about what is really out there. There is more to nature than just the basic “green” scenery that most people think of when the question, “What is nature?” is asked. Nature is used to symbolize many things in literature such as, peace, serenity, rebirth, good, calmness, and purity. Nature can symbolize calmness and peacefulness because when you walk into the woods you would mainly see trees, flowers, etc and you would hear the birds chirp or the sound of the wind because its quit enough for you to hear rather than in the city its to noise to hear the birds. Nature is heavily symbolized in different types of literature work, but it is used greatly by John Steinbeck and Bill Bryson as way to describe what they felt during their journey. The purpose of this paper is to show how Bill Bryson and Henry David Thoreau used “nature” as a way to symbolize their journeys and adventure through the novels “Walden” and “A walk in the Woods”.
William McGuire Bryson, better known as Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa in1951. He settled in England in 1977 and lived in North Yorkshire for almost two decades. He now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire. He is the son of William and Agnes Mary who was of Irish descent. In 2006, he published “The life and Times of the Thunderbolt kids” which discussed about his childhood, which he included his older brother Michael and his sister, Mary Jane Elizabeth. Bill Bryson dropped out of Drake University after attending the school for two years in 1972. On the following year, Bryson and a fellow high school friend, Stephen Katz, returned to Europe to start his adventure or “backpacking” trip. His travel with Stephen Katz was documented in the novel, “Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe”. Bryson wrote many books about his travels and journeys throughout his life. His travel books are “The Lost Continent”, “Neither Here Nor There”, “Notes From a Small Island”, “A Walk in the Woods”, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (aka “Notes From a Big Country”) and “Bill Bryson in a Sunburned Country” (aka “Down Under”). His books on the English language are “Mother Tongue” and “Made in America”. Some part of Bryson’s life took place in the United States of America. Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods”, was inspired by his journey through the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz, during his visit to the United States of America. Later on, Bryson and his family, which included four children, moved back to Britain and now they live in Norfolk.
On of America’s most famous writers, Henry David Thoreau was on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. Henry David Thoreau lived with 2 older siblings, John and Helen. He also lived his younger sister Sophia. Thoreau’s father worked in a local pencil factory, while his mother rented out parts of the family’s home to boarders. Thoreau was a very rounded child with a bright future. He later attended Harvard College, which is now the modern Harvard University. At Harvard University, he studied three different types of languages, which included, German, Latin and Greek. Thoreau graduated late due to his illness that caused him to stop attending class for a while. Eventually in 1837, he graduated from Harvard College. After graduating, he didn’t know to become of himself. With his knowledge and education, most people during his time would have pursued a career in medicine, law or even in the church. Just like some college graduates, Thoreau pursued his career in education. In 1838, his brother John and him opened a school. In the end the school eventually fail and closed a couple years later. Due to the school closing down, Thoreau later went and worked his father. Thoreau was introduced to Transcendentalism through Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom he met after college. Transcendentalism is the idea, belief or movement that was developed during the late 1820s and 1830s. Transcendentalism stresses the idea of self-reliance, individualism, non-conformity, embracing simplicity, potential through nature and hard work, finding your self to the fullest, and innate goodness for all humanity. Thoreau came to know many of the movement’s leading figures, including Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller. Emerson was Thoreau’s mentor and later Thoreau lives with Emerson for some time. Emerson used his influence to encourage Thoreau’s literary efforts. Some of Thoreau’s first works were published in The Dial, a Transcendentalist magazine. Emerson also gave Thoreau access to the lands that would inspire one of his greatest works. In 1845, Thoreau built a small house on Walden Pond. This land was a property of Emerson. Thoreau spent 2 years there to find simpler lifestyle. He worked as little as possible and sometimes he would go worked as a land surveyor or in the pencil factory. Also, he experiment the theme, “self-reliance”. He grew crops for food and only went into town if it was necessary. Even he lived a simpler life, he still encounter many problems with law. He was placed in jail for one night because he refused to pay for a poll tax. This experience inspired him to write an essay called, “Civil Disobedience”. Thoreau was also against slavery. He wrote many works that fought against slavery, such “Slavery in Massachusetts”. After leaving Walden Pond, Thoreau looked after Emerson’s house while he was on tour in England. Still fascinated with nature, Thoreau wrote down his observations on plant and wildlife in his native Concord and on his journeys. Later in life, Thoreau battles tuberculosis, an illness that had caused him great pain and suffering for the rest of his life. While on his trip to Minnesota in 1861, his illness worsens and he finally succumbed to the disease. He died on May 06, 1862, in Concord, Massachusetts.
Bill Bryson uses a lot of imagery to symbolize how nature can provide so much for a person. On the Appalachian Trail, there are many events that occur, such as death and injuries. The wildlife is usually involved in these events. “… his scalp it was dangling from talons prettily silhouetted against a harvest moon” (Bryson, 6). One could visualize a hawk holding on to a human’s scalp in the night against the moon. Bryson is trying to say that nature is a beautiful thing that many people misses because they don’t actually look at and appreciate what nature can offer to them. There are many different types of scenery that nature can create and offer to one’s mind. Just walking along a trail, Bryson sees nature’s beauty. “There were long shadows…”(Bryson, 80). Bryson was trying to express that he felt as if the shadows were right next is like one is right there along side of him. Bill Bryson, he focuses a lot on nature and how it affects human. Bryson talks about how many hikers don’t make it past the first day and some even quit with in first couple miles the hikers because maybe they the AT didn’t provided them with “proper technologies”,”…and they’d walked maybe a mile and a half before quitting. “ He said it wasn’t he expected it to be. They all say that.”(Bryson, 44). He compares how nature is very simple, while the modern world is very complex and hectic. Many people are to being busy that they never thought about the simplicity of nature. With nature there is nothing besides trees, animals, and rocks. The hikers have to get back to the basics and live without worry or any stress for a moment to embrace nature. For example, Bryson talks about how the hikers on the AT usually withdraw themselves for what nature is actually providing them, “… that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life…”(Bryson, 78). He is trying to say that you have to be one with nature in order to appreciate and you shouldn’t be distracted on your “smart devices” and just enjoy what is in front of you. He describes how on the AT, hikers become very calm with their selves and noting could bother them for hours or days because there are no stresses and nothing to bug the hikers. Bill Bryson talks about how nature provides him with solitude even when he is busy. Nature allows the hikers to have their attention on themselves, so at times they don’t realize what goes around them. The hikers just wonder the trails like noting is in their way. For example, during Bryson journey, Katz asks if Bryson had noticed the fallen down tree on the trail. Bryson said he didn’t have a clue about the fallen trees because he was so calm that he was to distract with the peacefulness of nature that he doesn’t really realizes anything around him. Katz was dumbfounded that Bryson doesn’t remember the fallen tree blocking the path. When wondering through nature it brings us humans back to a calm mood. Bill Bryson shows that human relationship with nature has changed throughout the years. Nature has become less respected and used by us humans. Nature is very simple and basic where as cities are very busy and complex. He describes how, we as humans ruins nature. He said that if nature were just left alone, it would be fine. Nature can survive fine, without us humans interfering. But humans think that when they are “changing” something in nature, it is helping nature but actually, humans are actually ruining nature.
The seasonal cycle throughout the book is used by Thoreau to symbolize how nature affected him through his journey. Also, the beginning and towards the end of spring is when world renews itself. Thoreau connects spring to resurrection and renewal and summer to growth. While autumn to maturity and winter to fatality. Thoreau began writing the novel around spring of March 1845. The story started out when Thoreau bought an axe and starts the construction of his cabin. He was determined to go to the woods to get in touch with God and a greater spiritualization of himself. This mean that he must get involved with nature and re-identify himself with the basic rhythms of nature and the cycles of the year and days. Thoreau uses two major symbols throughout the book. He uses morning and springtime a lot through out the book. Thoreau uses these two events as a way to symbolize how nature and during the morning and springtime have an effect on him and the way of life through out the book. For example, on second chapter, “Where I Lived, and What I lived for ”, Thoreau provide us with many example of how morning time effects him. On chapter 2, page sixty, Thoreau provides example of how morning symbolize how a new day is born. ““I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did” (Walden, 60). This quote symbolizes that a new day is born and there is an adventure waiting out there for him. “Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me” (Walden, 61). This quote symbolizes early morning when he wakes up, he reborn again and the adventures waits for him outside of his cabin with nature. For Thoreau morning is a metaphor for the birth of spiritual enlightenment and a way to learn more stuff about yourself and re-identify who or what you are.
In the first chapter, “Economy”, Thoreau had described a half-frozen snake, left by the cold of the winter as “torpid” (Walden, 28). That snake symbolizes the “sleeping” men who remain solid in their “primitive and low condition” (Walden, 28) by saying that those men just do what they told and just do tradition stuff and now trying anything new “Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man” (Walden, 62). This quote shows that Thoreau compared men who work hard without thinking to the pieces of iron that gird a railroad. Thoreau than insist on that men who work without thinking should be more awaken by spring, to rise to a “higher and more ethereal life” (Walden, 28). Thoreau begins building his house; this is part of his physical counterpart to his spiritual awakening. He constructed his cabin in the woods in the springtime, but does not move into until summer, when nature and his spiritual self is in full life. The day he moved in his cabin was on July 4th, which is Independence Day. This day symbolizes the day he withdraws and free himself with society and be one with nature. “..and so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into higher and higher grass” (Walden, 212). This quote symbolizes that as summer goes by Thoreau increases him spiritual connection towards nature and grow greater as a person. As nature mature toward its summer maturation, the narrator will grow toward his spiritual fulfillment. During summer is when Thoreau is engaged in the construction work and in the bean fields’ cultivation. These are the examples of his self-sufficiency philosophy. But by cultivating beans, Thoreau’s purpose is to be more with nature rather than worrying about the economic issues. Also, to show that nature can do many wonders if you just try to be independent and provide for yourself rather than waiting for other people to take care of you. Also, in order to be independent you should be one with nature because “nature” can do many wonders that you cannot see.
Thoreau sees winter as time period where he would reflect on what happen so far throughout the year and the author likes to reflect with himself indoors rather than outdoor during the cold winter time period. During the wintertime period, he would give himself a task of measuring the pond. This symbolizes how he is reflecting and trying to find out more about his spiritual towards nature. Then, when winter come close to the ends, spring comes back again and melts away the ice and sown and awakening of animals and the spiritual nature world. This is the beginning of a new adventure whenever spring begins to take it course through nature. The second to last chapter, “spring”, is a mantra to the eternal fertility of nature. For example these quote, “..the mother of humanity” (Walden, 205) and the “earth is still in her swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side” (Walden, 206) shows that Thoreau describes nature by using a lot of imagery of maternity and childhood. Also, as the season cycle, Thoreau believes that our life would restart and everything would be new again and it would be like everything is new and fresh. It shows that Thoreau believes that us as human with have a fresh start again to life as the season cycle around.
Thoreau uses images such as light, fire and sun to describe the arrival of spring. This symbolizes the how powerful, active and lively nature’s is when the times come. For example, the grass blade, “symbol of perpetual youth” (Walden, 207), symbolizes how when spring come, “mother nature” is there providing and give off her good vibe to give the land a new life. Also, nature awakes any creatures that slept though the winter and when the arrival of spring comes they come back to life and infest the land around them. The awakening of the creatures and any living thing throughout the land symbolizes the spiritual rebirth for change and for any wrong they did throughout the year. For example, this quote, “In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven” (Walden, 209) shows that Thoreau believes that people are forgiven their sins when the arrival of spring comes and it is like if they’re a restart to their life.
Animals are used in the book to symbolize the human society. Thoreau withdraw from human society is because he wants to get closer to the natural world. The author describes the animal fine points. He also describes them with the most respectful way he could because he astonish and curious by their beauty. He was interested in observing and watching closely at their behavior patterns. Furthermore, he especially wanted to observe the patterns of the woodchucks, partridges, loons, and mice. He doesn’t record down just the animals’ behaviors but he also combines their behaviors with human’s behaviors. Many of his thoughts are from his imagination. For example, when he sees the black ants and red ants armies at war, he compares that to human’s battle. He thinks human only fight for materialistic reasons and not really for a real reason. They only care for they need and sometimes what they need is not really necessary. In addition, animals symbolize the savage part rooted in all man. Thoreau believes that nature can show the unmodified truths to most things and in order for humans like us to find ourselves or freedom, Thoreau believes that we must give into nature and see the value because he thinks that without nature, one man can not truly find out about himself or discover what he really is capable of doing. He also believes that us human should not just give up or rely everything one another but actually stand up and physically do it, than we will find our freedom. The most obviously and most important symbol throughout the whole novel is Walden Pond itself. The pond itself has a lot of meaning. It can mean various things because it’s a very complex symbol. There can be many point of views or perspectives that people have by just reading the book, but the small body of water can be a symbol of Thoreau spirit, philosophy or something that he think of personally and closely about. He compares the pond to heaven and earth because his quote, “Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both” (Walden, 119), shows that the pond reflects the sky and earth and this makes it seem like he is comparing the humans to the god. Like how the gods live in heaven and we humans like on earth. Thoreau believes that the pond stay youthful throughout the year because it never changes and once the season cycle it just turn backs the way it was. He talks about the pond sleep during winter because its cover in ice. Than in spring, it awakes and turns into what it was before. It is like the youthfulness just recycle as the season recycle and also he describes the pond as being immortal or they’re forever like it every year it would wake back up. “Walden was dead and is alive again” (Walden, 278). According to this quote he believes that it has an eternal life because as the season recycle the pond life recycle. Its like he is trying to compare the pond life to human’s life. During the summer we gather food and prepared for winter. When winter hits we are confined in our home and wait for the incoming of spring. When spring arrives we regain our life back because the snowmelts away we are free at least. Than the cycle of season just continue.
Both Bryson and Thoreau used their adventures as a way to express themselves and how they feel towards nature. Bryson hiked across the Application Trails while, Thoreau borrowed land from his good friend Emerson to shy away from society and live a similar life by being one with nature. Even though these two authors lived in a different time period and had different approaches on how to attack the journeys, there ideas and apperception for nature is not much different. They both went on there adventure to be one with nature.
Thoreau’S “Walden” Simply Things Are Priceless
In Thoreau’s story “Walden” he is trying to get the message across to the reader that it doesn’t take a lot to live a good life. A good life can be acquired with the simple things that surrounds us every day. He points out that nature that we live with daily can supply all the necessities we need. Simplicity is the key. Thoreau stated, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand;” (pp748). Happiness does not come with having a lot of wealth and fame but being able to feel contentment within. Life is a blessing, and it ought to be dealt with in that capacity. Individuals these days tend to disregard the basic joys that life gives us. We tend to over-confound our lives because of apparently every day battles that we stress excessively over.
When we put cash and belonging first, we dismiss our needs and dismiss life’s actual reason. Life is a limited time span, however as mentioned before, it is a blessing, and it ought to be dealt with in that capacity. We live in a public that organizes cash over our very own satisfaction now and again. While Thoreau lived in the woods, he realized that living a simply life did not take much money, sometimes none at all, when he could get the things he needed to survive from nature. The things in nature we live with every day and take for granted due to having the power to buy those things we think that will make our living in this society easy.
There are a lot of contents in the story “Walden” that illustrates that money is not a requirement to acquire any necessities of the soul. God created a lot of resources for mankind to use for the good of the body and soul. Many have used these things for years, as Thoreau did, without the aid of currency. Thoreau wanted his readers to realized being true to yourself, which is a good nourishment for the soul, and can’t be brought with money, is far better than anything money can buy. He talks about truth a lot in the story “Walden. ” Here is what he stated in another passage concerning truth: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. ” (pp765). All the necessities that’s good for the soul are priceless. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, anyone can achieve these priceless gifts from God. No price can be attached to the source of getting in touch with your inner self to gain happiness and contentment. The things that makes you happy to be alive. Thoreau proved that we can live the simply life with just the basic things of life, food, shelter and clothing. We can gain from nature, figure out how to live in its condition, which is free to all, and satisfying to the soul.