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Walking by Henry Thoreau - Accurate Essays

Walking by Henry Thoreau

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Walking by Henry Thoreau

Right from the beginning of the essay Walking, Henry David Thoreau makes it clear that he is speaking for nature, for absolute freedom and wildness. He capitalizes nature and chooses to speak for it, because as he says, there are enough people speaking for civilization. This prepares the reader, and he or she becomes aware that the essay will essentially be a contest between nature and civilization. Thoreau sees walking as an art, which many people do not understand. He speaks for those he calls ‘saunterers’ because they walk to the holy lands and they conquer it from those he calls the infidels. He glorifies walking and says that it is a profession, which requires one to leave everything. Through walking, people experience leisure, freedom and independence. Walking is healthy for preserving the body and spirit. He does not advocate staying still and he is of the opinion people were meant to walk and not sit around. He indeed does not understand why those who sit have not yet committed suicide. Through this, it is clear that Thoreau speaks for nature by noting the value of walking, or as he refers to it, ‘sauntering’ (Thoreau, 2011).

People’s characters are formed when they live outdoors in the sun and in the wind. This causes many changes in the body such as thickness of skin and having thoughts that are more positive. Self-respect and heroism are not taught inside houses and those who desire them must be willing to experience them outdoors. For walks to be productive, the body and the spirit must work together. Most people find that they take walks in the woods and they use this time to think about the problems back home or in their business. He notes that every time he takes a walk, he does not fail to notice something new. Man thinks that he improves the landscape by building houses and cutting down forests and large trees. Thoreau notes that this deforms the landscape and makes it more tame and cheap. He combines his ideas about nature’s destruction with religion. He posits that the angels were looking for the lost paradise as man destroys the forests and the devil was acting as the surveyor.

Taking walks is sometimes a difficult choice and many people often make the wrong choice. Thoreau prefers to take the west side because it is wild and leads to freedom. Those who took the road to the east were looking for history, art and literature. The road to the east leads to the past while the road to the west leads to the future. When he was writing the essay, America had not yet been fully explored and civilized and there was still a lot more to be learnt about the country. Europe on the other hand was tried and tested and there was nothing new to discover. The west represented many possibilities of adventure. The uncivilized west represented more of the future than the past or the present. He sees hope as lying in impervious and quaking swamps and not in lawns, cultivated fields, towns and cities. Thoreau considers the dwarf Andromeda as being rich swamp plants. He prefers the high blueberry, panicled Andromeda, lambkill, azalea and rhodora to grow in front of his house. He prefers to dwell in the swamp and to grow shrubs and bushes rather than having a front lawn decorated with the most exquisite human art (Thoreau, 2011).

While others may reject the desert for lack of moisture and fertility, Thoreau is attracted to it because of the pure air and solitude. The advantages of having this are improved morale, less doubts, and a person becomes more cordial and hospitable. Civilization on the other hand, only causes more agitation, perplexity, turmoil and suffocation. The swamp is a sacred place where people can find their strength. The wildwoods are good places for thoughts and the soil is good for men and the trees. He compares the meadows to strong meats upon which men feed and he says that they are good for his health. Swamps and woods create a pleasant atmosphere for the towns. Forests should be maintained such that new trees should replace the old and dying ones. This ensures that the land is good for the cultivation of corn and potatoes and for the people’s intellect as well. Healthy towns are made of healthy people and this is determined by a healthy lifestyle. Thoreau refers to the Christian faith when he again mentions the reformer as, one who ate locusts and wild honey. Thoreau was a religious person and he often used elements of Hindu religion and Christianity in his writing (Dorman 61).

Both the wild animals and man require forests to live. Primitive forests have helped to maintain the civilized nations and they have been preserved by the uncultivated soil. The same cannot be said of human culture since there have been nothing to preserve it. The soil that is meant to preserve it has been exhausted and people have been left to survive on their own. Literature has made mention of the wild and this is what attracts many people. It is in literature that people can think wildly, with abandonment. The mind is uncivilized and a delight to people. Thoreau compares a good book to something “natural, unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild flower discovered on the prairies of the West or n the jungles of the East” (Thoreau, 2011).

In order to know the wild side of nature, one has to experience it by walking. Thoreau makes a strong case and in this essay, he has managed to show the importance of living wild and free. He says that all good things are wild and free and he has gone to great lengths to show this in the essay. People should put in a lot of effort to maintain the environment in its free and wild state. Cultivation and importation of plants have contributed to great losses in biodiversity and has led to the destruction of the landscape. People should not destroy forests and erect buildings. In cases where the trees in the forests have grown old, new trees should be planted and this will help to maintain and preserve the soil.





















Works Cited

Dorman, Robert. A Word for Nature: Four Pioneering Environmental Advocates, 1845-1913. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books, 1998. Print.

Thoreau, Henry. “Walking.” The literature Network. n. d. Web. 22 Mar 2011.

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