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Back To Nature In Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

2029 words - 8 pages


In Walden, Henry David Thoreau explains how a relationship with nature reveals aspects of the true self that remain hidden by the distractions of society and technology. To Thoreau, the burdens of nineteenth century existence, the cycles of exhausting work to obtain property, force society to exist as if it were "slumbering." Therefore, Thoreau urges his readers to seek a spiritual awakening. Through his rhetoric,Thoreau alludes to a "rebirth" of the self and a reconnection to the natural world. The text becomes a landscape and the images become objects, appealing to our pathos, or emotions, our ethos, or character, and our logos, or logical reasoning, because we experience his awakening. Thoreau grounds his spirituality in the physical realities of nature, and allows us to experience our own awakening through his metaphorical interpretations. As we observe Thoreau¹s awakening, he covertly leads us to our own enlightenment.

Thoreau submerges us into the text through his language, thereby allowing us to come as close to his experience of solitude in nature as he allows. Author Lawrence Buell explains that, as "Walden unfolds the mock serious discourse of enterprise, which implicitly casts the speaker as self-creator of his environment, begins to give way to a more ruminative prose in which the speaker appears to be finding himself within his environment" (122). Buell explains that Thoreau invites us inside the text and allows us to see the images he sees and to feel the life around him. His strategy is to disengage us from the chains that society so elegantly places around our ankles, and allow us to return to where we are closest to our natural essence. This essence can only be found, according to Thoreau, by secluding ourselves in nature to live as "deliberately as nature," so as not to realize upon our deaths that we have not really lived at all (87).

Thoreau's main concern is that the accumulation of wealth, and the desire to obtain it, distracts humans from recognizing their true essence, which is spirituality. In the chapter "Economy," he urges us to learn to live life by ourselves, without the pressures of monetary consumption, and reevaluate ourselves in order to obtain its true necessities. He states, "It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what the gross necessaries of life are and what methods have been taken to obtain them" (9). Thoreau reduces the necessaries of life to four things: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. Anything beyond these four necessities serves as a wall dividing physical from spiritual realities.

In agreement with Thoreau, an anonymous author explains how human existence separates from its essence due to a preoccupation with financial prosperity. In the National Anti-Slavery Standard, an obscure anti-slavery newspaper from 1854, the author states, "The life exhibited... teaches us that this Western activity of...

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