“The integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects… in the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature” (Emerson). Rather than providing a technical, concrete definition of nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson brings a fresh take to how nature is defined. In fact, other authors and individuals have shaped their own definition of nature: what they believe it possesses in addition to what it encompasses. This theme has been widely discussed, with a peak in the nineteenth century. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are responsible for the fixation of nature in literature, and Christopher McCandless plus Cheryl Strayed are answerable for bringing that fixation into a more recent time period. Nature was and is a prevalent theme in literature and society; however, every individual views it differently. While Emerson, Thoreau, McCandless, and Strayed all took similar approaches in interacting with nature, they differ in their belief of what nature offers individuals.
Emerson and Thoreau are easier to compare than contrast. Both are distinct proponents of the transcendentalist period. These individuals were deliberately devoted to perfectibility of soul, divinity of each individual, and value of collective social action; nevertheless, they did have differing views of what nature offered.
The Thoreau we have come to know is referred to as a figure of ecological awareness, managing to separate himself from society, while becoming a nominal leader of transcendentalism (Sullivan 2). He writes a small novel, intended for those who lived in Concord, Massachusetts, where he provides answers to those who questioned him while he lived alone on Walden Pond. Robert Sullivan portrays Thoreau as out and away, busy getting in touch with the natural world; a true transcendentalist (1). In Walden, Thoreau supports this when he writes “How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air…” (Thoreau 60). He continues by explaining how he would rather be “sitting on a pumpkin” than “on a velvet cushion, as well as how he would prefer to “ride on Earth in an ox cart” over “riding to heaven in a fancy car” (Thoreau 61). Through his writing, Thoreau displays a strong belief that nature offers bliss and pleasure. His preference of nature over those material items is how he began to separate himself and progress towards this theory of transcendentalism, thus finding himself in nature.
Emerson, like Thoreau, is an intellectual individual who began to point out how natural beauty can pervade. He gave lectures that he later published which expressed his views on nature and how we can transcend the physical world and find freedom through flora, fauna, and landscape (Richardson 218). Contrasting Thoreau, Emerson wrote of his belief that we could live without material items and enjoy what nature has to offer. He writes “to go into solitude, a man needs to retire...