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Desire to Risk: Masters, Armstrong and Thoreau’s Works Essay

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2021

Compare and Contrast Essay

Every person has his own goal in life and decides by himself what the best is for him. Richard Armstrong writes about a person who is fearless and creative and is willing to assume risk both in life and in the sea. Edgar Lee Masters, however, writes about the man who is not ready to accept new challenges even though he understands the need of risk. Henry David Thoreau, on the contrary, draws the line between exploration of the sea and inner self. All of the authors devote their writing to the same theme (quest for the purpose in life) and reach the same conclusion (need to risk and explore), however, use different methods to achieve this result. Because Edgar Lee Masters, Richard Armstrong, and Henry David Thoreau write about the desire to risk, to assume responsibility, and to explore something new, these elements should be taken into account while analyzing the meaning of three short extracts.

First, all of three authors write about the desire to risk and to seek new challenges as part of human life. Nevertheless, each of them attributes different meaning to risk and challenge. Richard Armstrong, in particular, puts forward the idea that there is a need to be creative in all life situations. For example, he notes that if fog prevents a small-boat sailor from seeing the buy marking his course, he should turn his boat rapidly in small circles because the waves he makes will rock the buoy in the vicinity. If to draw the parallel to other life situations, Richard Armstrong shows that there is always a place for risk and that there are never dead-ended situations. Edgar Lee Masters, on the contrary, writes that life without meaning is a torture and without risk and madness there is no meaning in life.

Henry David Thoreau, for example, provides an example of Columbus who sailed to America without knowing anything about it. He did not know whether there was another land and whether his journey would be successful. Nevertheless, Columbus assumed the risk and discovered new land. The same is with humans – people need to discover their own destiny and it cannot be done without assuming the risk and exploring unknown. Lee Masters, Armstrong, and Thoreau write about importance of risk in finding the purpose of life, however, they use different examples to support their points of view.

Second point deals with assuming the responsibility for actions. Even though Richard Armstrong does not make a direct reference to responsibility, this theme is traced in his story. He notes that people should take a few risks and to “make a few waves”. If the “wave” or expected action does not follow, the person is responsible for result. Edgar Lee Masters, on the contrary, refers directly to responsibility. He writes, “Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid; ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances. And now I know that we must life the sail and catch the winds of destiny.” These lines uncover the issue of responsibility. Humans who want to find the meaning and purpose in life have to assume the risk as well as responsibility for their choice.

Henry David Thoreau, on the contrary, notes that “it is easier to sail many thousands miles through cold and storm … with five hundred men and boys to assist, one that it is to explore the private sea.” In this context, the private sea is referred to as human soul. People seek assistance in their everyday activities because it is not easy to make decisions without help of other people. Humans are afraid to assume responsibility for what they do and that is why they are not assuming risk to change anything in their lives, to find the purpose of living. From the early childhood, people are taught by parents that every action leads to result. Whether the result is positive or negative depends only on the person who carried out the act. People are not risking because they do not want to assume responsibility for failure or negative result.

Finally, Armstrong raises the theme of exploring something new as part of finding the purpose in life. He notes that there is always a way out of all situations, however, the person should be ready to learn and try something new. Masters talks about the same theme, nevertheless, he views it from a different perspective. He agrees with purpose of life should be explored, however, he does not make an assumption that purpose of life should be found in new situation. Masters notes that humans should not be afraid to do when they know; he does not say anything about exploring new horizons of life.

Thoreau, unlike Armstrong and Masters, makes direct reference to exploration of something new. He says, “Explore thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and the nerve.” The “eye” is demanded not to miss the opportunities, while the “nerve” is demanded not to give up in difficult situations. Exploration of the new is part of everyday human life in the quest of purpose. Nevertheless, life is full of unexpected situations and not all people are able to live through difficult periods, many give up and stop exploring. Thoreau notes that it is not easy to find purpose of life, however, no one should give and try again.

In conclusion, desire to risk, ability to assume responsibility, and readiness to explore something new in life are covered in the writing of Masters, Armstrong, and Thoreau. Each of these authors expresses his own vision of purpose in life as well as proposes his own way to reach it. Armstrong is focused on desire to risk, Masters talks more about responsibility for actions, while Thoreau notes that humans should never stop exploring new fields of life. Without paying attention to these three themes, the writings cannot be properly understood.

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