Walden By Henry Thoreau AnalysisIn Henry David Thoreau’s infamous novel ?Walden?, we are shown endlessparadoxes that stem from the author’s deep and insightful views intonature’s universal connections with the human race. Thoreau makes himself aquest of finding the meaning to our existence by investigating nature fromdifferent perspectives that our preoccupied society constantly overlooks. Two ofthese perspectives are of viewing nature from a mountaintop or panoramic viewand the other being from our own earthly foundations.
?At other times watchingfrom an observatory of some cliff or tree, to telegraph any new arrival; orwaiting at evening on the hill-tops for the sky to fall, that I might catchsomething, though never caught much, and that, mannawise, would dissolve againin the sun? (Thoreau 336). In this passage, Thoreau tells us that he issearching for something but he is not sure of what it is exactly. He states thathe has taken refuge plenty of times at sites that are at high altitudes to tryto see more clearly so that the answers of life can become more apparent. Hesays he waits for the sky to fall, which of course it can’t, but this tells methat he is looking for the unexpected or what hasn’t been seen yet.
The word?mannawise? is a Thoreau ?original? word. I know, by my own knowledge,that ?manna? is another word or prefix for ?earth?, so when he says thatthe ?mannawise, would dissolve again in the sun?, I believe he is sayingthat his search has hit another rut without answers and so the sun sets and sodoes the earth’s responses of wisdom. ?Let us settle ourselves, and work andwedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, andtradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe,through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, throughchurch and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to ahard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, andno mistake; and then begin?? (Thoreau 400). This is one of Thoreau’sstrongest statements using the perspective of burrowing down to our own roots tofind the buried treasures of life. He tells us to forget everything we havelearned and start all over with a fresh and clean state of mind.
Once we do thiswe can experience true ?reality? and not what society has handed us tobelieve in. To work our way down through all we have been taught by man and tofind the real answers in ourselves and nature and if we do this, only then shallwe live and be. ?To my imagination it retained throughout the day more or lessof this auroral character, reminding me of a certain house on a mountain which Ihad visited the year before. This was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit toentertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. Thewinds which passed over my dwelling were such as sweep over the ridges ofmountains, bearing the broken strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrialmusic? ?Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where? (Thoreau 390)In this passage, Thoreau gives us another panoramic view of being on amountaintop where a house is, with a sight so beautiful and magical, that itsonly comparison would be of Olympus, home of the Greek gods. He gives us a pastdescription of what he remembers about a rundown cabin and even though it was adecaying site, its towering position made it god worthy.
Thoreau starts bystating that his present house looked like an ?auroral character?, settingan analogy of the sun shining all around his residence reminding him of the?Olympus’site. This godlike place on the mountain has nature’s own musicplaying by the ways of the wind passing through the holes and hollows ofearth’s landscapes. He uses the metaphor of Greek Mythology to give us agrandeur view of the earth so that we may see clearly and truly to find our realselves and world. ?Though the view from my door was still more contracted, Idid not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for myimagination? (Thoreau 392).
This is another statement which Thoreau uses theperspective of the ground and foundation to explain his point of view. I havethis mental picture of Thoreau sitting in his doorway of the small cabin facingWalden Pond, making his fascinating inquiries and writing steadily as they cometo him. This cabin was supposedly small by the measurements Thoreau givesearlier on, and so someone, like me, might take it that such a confined spacemay take away from the imagination rather than ignite it. But as Thoreau pointsout, sitting in his doorway, staring out at all of the inhabitants and land,that he has no feelings of imaginative solitude since there was enough pasture(land) ?for my imagination?.
This is a very important point even though itonly consists of one short sentence. Thoreau is reminding us that ourimagination lies within us and that no matter what circumstances we are in, itis there and always accessible. So does this mean that our imagination is thelost treasure? ?I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, tolive so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, tocut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it toits lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole andgenuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it weresublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it inmy next excursion? (Thoreau 394-5). This is one of the most famous passagesfrom Walden. These lines have been read by millions of people since they werepublished and have shaped many lives into personal happiness. This is another?burrowing? perspective but this time the burrowing is done inside of ourown lives with the imagery of using our own bodies.
Thoreau gives us his thesisstatement of why he moved to Walden and what he hoped to find. ?Cutting? ourimages and lives down to the core, reaching the depths of one’s soul, startingover again with just the essentials of the mind is how he will find this losttreasure that so many of us have lost. These passages remind me of a warrior’sspeech before going to battle (like a Spartan!) in the epic tales, or like thequests for the Holy Grail, stating that if he does not find the meaning of lifeso obviously then he will continue his search relentlessly making this his humangoal. In my opinion, this man really lived with wonderful awareness, takingevery hour of being as a gift and savoring everything that life, not society,had to offer.
Thoreau saw with transparent eyes into the lowest depths of worldand then up to the highest zeniths of creation to find what most people neverwill. BibliographyThoreau, H. D. A Week On The Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Walden, The MaineWoods, Cape Cod. Lib.
Of America. New York, 1985.