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“Walden” a Book by Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

Life in the solitude of Walden Lake presented Henry David Thoreau the opportunity to introspect and enjoy the multitude of nature’s beauty. In the chapter on “Solitude” in his book Walden, Thoreau presents a life away from the human civilization, but in company of nature. He describes the perfect blissfulness in his solitary life at Walden Lake.

This chapter is reflection of William Bertram’s philosophy that souls unite all nature’s creations. Like Bertram, Thoreau found a connection with Nature in his solitary life in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This essay explores how Thoreau found the life of solitude endearing, as he was not plagued with loneliness; rather found a multitude of company in nature.

William Bertram believed that all natural beings are unified at the very inception of the creation story. He believed that this connection is between souls and thus established the unity between humans and nature. Thoreau’s’ “Solitude” is a continuation of this belief that Bertram professed. In “Solitude”, he described his life at Walden lake and the way, one “delicious evening”, he felt the connection with nature and became “a part of herself” (Thoreau 202).

In the cool breeze of the lake, as he returned from his evening walk, he felt as if he found companions in his environment. As he returns to his cottage, he finds notes from his friends, indicating that he was probably not very far from humanity, but still his seclusion from them helped him to connect with the natural world. Thus, Thoreau writes:

My nearest neighbor is a mile distant, and no house is visible from any place but the hill-tops within half a mile of my own. I have my horizon bounded by woods all to myself; a distant view of the railroad where it touches the pond on the one hand, and of the fence which skirts the woodland road on the other. But for the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. (Thoreau 204)

Although Thoreau names this chapter “Solitude”, he is not alone in his life at Walden Lake. He mentions that he lives in the company of the beautiful wilderness of the lake. Thoreau writes that in such company of nature, even the weariest “misanthrope” could not be depressed: “There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature” (Thoreau 205).

Thoreau does not profess that he wants to embrace the life of a hermit and renounce society; rather he finds society in a very unlikely companion – Nature. He points out that his life of solitude was a deliberate attempt to flee the trivial company of human society and embrace the much superior company of nature. Many believed that to live a solitary life was unpleasant, but Thoreau believes otherwise.

This he exemplifies with his instinctive dislike for gossip that plagues human society. He therefore posits that the blissful surrounding of Walden Lake immensely surpasses the “fancied advantages of human neighborhood” (Thoreau 207).

The exceedingly superior company of Nature makes his solitary stay at Walden Lake more engaging. The only human company that Thoreau talks of is that of an old man and a woman who present to him mystical tales of years gone by, though it is not apparent if these people are real or imaginary companions of the author. The chapter repeatedly presents the deep communion between Thoreau and nature and shows how the human world could connect to the true spirit of the wilderness.

William Bertram believed that animal and plants are not very different from human beings. Their world was connected to humans’ through an invisible spiritual chord. His works continually expressed the belief that man is not superior to nature, even though he tried to profess it through imposition of manmade objects on natural surroundings.

On the contrary, he believed that man holds the same place as flora and fauna and therefore, believed in reducing man’s elevated stature to its natural place. Bertram professed that there is no difference between human and rest of the natural world as these claims were exaggerated viewpoint of a tyrannical human race. Thoreau imbibes this philosophy of Bertram in his writing “Solitude”. Here he emphasizes the oneness of nature and man through the connection he makes to the natural world instead of the human society.

He continually shows that human society was far less superior to that of nature, which actually descends man’s self-professed position in the natural hierarchy. He further states that the state of solitude in concurrence with nature was a far better proposal instead of the poisonous company of other men. He even prefers nature’s cure rather than sordid chemical concoctions – “For my panacea, instead of one of those quack vials of a mixture dipped from Acheron … let me have a draught of undiluted morning air” (Thoreau 217).

In this chapter, “solitude” is not a state of isolation or loneliness, but a condition of mind. Thoreau attains a mystical state in his solitude and unites with his natural surroundings. Spirituality reminiscent through the bountiful nature transcends Thoreau from the base human existence to a mystical state of mind. This place by the lake had a therapeutic value that erased all the toxic excesses of working life of human society. Through this process of emptying himself, Thoreau connects to the universe.

Bertram philosophized that through nature man can connect to heaven. Thoreau too presents similar view as he recounts his stay at Walden Lake.

He compares his state of solitude to that of God: “God is alone — but the devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he is legion.” (Thoreau 214-215) in his solitude Thoreau establishes a connection with Nature and in his self-realization concurs that he too is “partly leaves and vegetable mould” (Thoreau 216). This realization unites him to the natural world around him physically.

Thoreau not only professes a metaphysical oneness with nature, but also believes that man too is made of the same material as plants and animals, and so cannot profess his superiority over nature.

Man has historically established his hegemonic superiority over the natural world. Thoreau, like William Bertram, shows that man’s claim to superiority is a figment of his creation and does not confer to the natural laws devised by God.

Man is equal to his natural surrounding and at times inferior to Nature. “Solitude” recounts a time when Thoreau lived alone at Walden Lake, but he never felt alone, as the company of nature enriched his soul and helped him connect to the universe. Thoreau, like Bertram, re-establishes the oneness of the natural world, the unity man, plant, and animals that creates the perfect harmony in nature.

Bibliography

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and COmpany, 1882. Print.

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