Thoreau Essay, Research Paper
The Power of Nature in Walking
In Walking , Thoreau uses wild and religious references to illustrate his own thoughts about the true Nature. Through these citations, Thoreau compares the tainted city culture to that of pure nature. The writing clarifies nature as a place of thought, where people s true feelings emerge. Lastly, Thoreau elucidates the Sacred located in Nature through strong religious allusions.
First, Throeau uses wild and religious imagery to juxtapose the city, human culture, with the Nature that he claims to be pure. In the introduction to the text, Thoreau describes Nature as having absolute freedom, and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil (71). Right away, Thoreau makes it clear that the society of man differs from the society in Nature. The Nature being described lies untouched and uncorrupted by man unlike the nature created by humans which remains tame and cheap (80). According to Thoreau, every time man upsets Nature, its value depreciates. The idea of man made nature disgusts Thoreau so greatly that he would rather reside in the Dismal Swamp , then dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art contrived (99). For a man to prefer the doldrums of the swamp than the beauty of a spring garden, truly exemplifies the contempt Thoreau has for unnatural Nature. As Thoreau saunters through Nature, he gathers his thoughts and becomes immersed in the scenery. In the city, where people are driven by the forces of greed and ambition, nothing is real, and one can not truly be himself. The wildness that Thoreau refers to is the preservation of the world, (95) and Cities import it at any price (95). This personification of a wild force clearly exemplifies how man can lose oneself in Nature. Obviously Thoreau believes that the city lacks wildness , therefore, making it an inferior place to Nature. People who let the wild control them are being true to their aspirations in life, because they let Nature take them on their proper path. Thoreau states how the trapper s coat emits the odor of musquash, (96) which to him is a sweeter scent than that which commonly exhales from the merchant s or the scholar s garments (96). A merchant and scholar, common city people, reek of the city culture where people control each other. In Nature, everyone moves on their own unattached to everything except the landscape surrounding them. According to Thoreau, eventually the wild will conquer over the created. He claims that the founders of every state which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source (95). Nature doesn t choose people, people choose Nature by embracing its effervescent qualities. Thoreau wants everyone to feel Nature s force.
Aside from epitomizing Nature as an escape from the city, Thoreau utilizes imagery to illustrate Nature as a place of thought. While immersed in Nature, man can think on his own without letting collective thinking influence his decisions. Thoreau feels that there is something in the mountain-air that feeds the spirit and inspires (91). In effect, climate does thus react on man, (91) so by immersing oneself in the natural state, one s true thoughts can be ascertained. While in Nature, one s thoughts will be clearer, fresher and ethereal (93). Walking along landscape [that] is not owned, [the] walker enjoys comparative freedom (84). The wild and unknown force the walker to let his thoughts be free, whereas in society, issues of work and possession burden one s mind. While walking in Nature can be refreshing, people who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds (71). Thoreau describes a saunterer as someone who allows their mind to become a part of Nature and who seeks to find things in Nature. If someone walks simply to revive their body and not their mind, then they are considered walkers, not saunterers . A saunterer lives life to its fullest, and the most alive is the wildest (97). People who follow their own path in life have the most success in Thoreau s eyes. They are the happy one s because their soul has found Nature, and they become surrounded by the raw material of life (97). Those who put in the effort to discover the truth in Nature will reap the benefits of its resources. Thoreau asks to be given a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure (96). This type of crude nature can not be examined by just any settler, but by only those who choose to endure its wildness. As Thoreau is already acclimated (96) to this environment, he hopes that others will follow his lead and adapt to his way of thinking. Thoreau employs Nature as a tool for people to figure out things on their own. Only after someone accepts their surroundings can they genuinely look down the correct course of life. At this point, Thoreau poses the question what business have I in woods (79)? Nature accepts everyone, not only those who understand it s eminence. People must look into Nature to see what they can discover for themselves. Thoreau attempts to guide people towards this way of thinking.
Just as Thoreau directs people towards individualism through Nature, he applies religious allusions to Nature, in order to shed light on the Sacred in Nature. Thoreau exclaims that entering Nature requires a direct dispensation from Heaven (73). Nature acts as a gate to happiness and freedom of thought. Although anyone can walk in nature, only those who have paid their debts, and made their will, and settled all their affairs (73) can relic in Nature s ultimate wisdom. Thoreau believes every walk is a sort of crusade [meant] to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the infidels (72). When people immerse themselves in Nature, they are locating not only the sacred, but part of their own spirit which they may not have even realized is present. Nature causes man to question the ideas of society and formulate their own. Even a desolate place like a swamp can be viewed as a sacred place a sanctum sanctorum (100). Nature is the holiest place, not the man made chapels, but the environment. It is the holy of holies. A man can stand in Nature surrounded by devils [having] found his bounds without a doubt (80), with the Prince of Darkness as his surveyor (80). Even being overwhelmed by the evil forces in Nature, man can realize his purpose for walking. One who attempts to toy with Nature s magnificence will pay in the end. People must live in harmony with Nature, and try not to destroy it. When investigating Nature, people must look for a way to relate to it. There is a clear pathway through Nature that Thoreau believes people should attempt to follow. The trail of Hesperides, the Great Western Pioneer whom the nations follow (88), provides a comparison of how Nature can lead people to the light that Thoreau describes. Nature will lead people back to the path of virtue and spirituality. It is a reflection of God which people can tangibly experience. The Sacred aspect of Nature helps people to connect with their true feelings. When wrapped up in the spirituality of Nature, people forget about the collective ideals of society and start thinking for themselves.
In conclusion, Thoreau uses Nature to teach people about individualism. Thoreau does believe, however, that not everyone will view Nature as he does. People must take it upon themselves to envy Nature and live harmoniously with it.