30 Sep 2009 [ Prev | Next ]

Thoreau, Walden (1854; Chapter 2 and Chapter 4)

Thoreau's Walden is not a novel or an autobiography, but rather a series of interconnected essays that describe his life apart from society, in the woods where he fled in order contemplate nature. In many ways, this book founded the tradition of nature writing. (Certainly authors and artists had examined nature before, but not in the context of nature being threatened by industrialism.) Thoreau was one of the American Transcendentalists, who loved nature, but also loved intelligent society. They were frustrated idealists, who held out great hopes for the soul of humankind, but disgusted at the pettiness and materialism they found in human society. They looked at nature with the eyes of a poet,

Please post one blog entry that responds to all of chapter 2 and all of chapter 4 (but that's not the entire reading assignment, as you can see on the outline page). Please pick, for your agenda item, a quote from a passage other than the passages below. (I will get you started by offering some commentary on these two selections.)
I went to the woods because 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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
The above is from Chapter 2, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." I am also asking you to read Chapter 4, "Sounds". A note to help you get into the book:
Walden is a difficult book to read for three reasons: First, it was written by a gifted writer who uses surgically precise language, extended, allegorical metaphors, long and complex paragraphs and sentences, and vivid, detailed, and insightful descriptions. Thoreau does not hestitate to use metaphors, allusions, understatement, hyperbole, personification, irony, satire, metonymy, synecdoche, and oxymorons, and he can shift from a scientific to a transcendental point of view in mid-sentence. -- Ken Kiefer
You may also wish to pay a visit to the Walden section of the American Transcendentalism Web.



A look into true freedom and nature.

Jamie Grace said:

"Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune" (para 2)


Kayla Lesko said:

"If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter--we never need read of another" (para. 19).



That is the link.. but if you go to the actual blog website, the entry after that tells you you have to highlight this one - because I have no idea why the text did not show up in white... no idea at all. Sorry about that!

Meagan Gemperlein said:

"We think that that is which appear to be." (Thoreau Chapter 2 par. 21)


Follow Your Own Path

Jeremy Barrick said:

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion." [17]


Jeremy Barrick said:

I am not going to post another quote here because I am contrasting chapters. I already set up my agenda idea above.


Sarah Durham said:

"Every mourning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. " (ch.2-14)

Sarah Durham said:

"As I sit at my window this summer afternoon, hawks are circling about my clearing; the tantivty of wild pigeons, flying by two and three athwart my view, or perching restless on the white pine boughs behind my house..." (ch. 4-5)

Katie Lantz said:

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor." (Thoreau, chapter 2)


Living With Sounds

Showing One's True Colors

Jered Johnston said:

"Their train of clouds stretching far behind and rising higher and higher, going to heaven while the cars are going to Boston, conceals the sun for a minute and casts my distant field into the shade, a celestial train beside which the petty train of cars which hugs the earth is but the barb of the spear."


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