Walden-Tone Essay, Research Paper
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau s tone , his attitude towards the subject, has two aspects. His attitude towards nature was a positive one of respect and amazement. His attitude towards the reader, the general public, or the average citizen changes through the course of the work from pitying to criticizing to reassuring and advising.
Thoreau viewed nature as a teacher; he did, after all, journey to Walden pond to front only the essential facts of life and learn what (nature) had to teach. (66) This attitude that nature is the teacher and we are the students continued throughout Thoreau s tale. Thoreau explained that men go into the world at first as a hunter, a fisher until at last…he distinguishes his proper objects, as a poet or naturalist… The mass of men are still and always young in this respect (149).
He depicted nature in a positive tone; he had good things to say about both the phases of the day and the seasons of the year. He describe the morning, the most memorable season of the day (64) and the delicious evening (90). He depicted the gentle rain that watered his plants (92) and some of his most enjoyable hours , occurring during the long rainstorms in spring or fall (93). In the winter he weathered some merry snowstorms and spent some cheerful winter evenings by his fireside while the snow whirled without. (172) Spring was the phenomenon that is more exhilarating than any other season because Walden lives again .(205)
Thoreau depicted nature with a tone of wonder and amazement. He felt that nobody could fully comprehend nature s role in life. He said that we know only a few of nature s laws (194), and that, with regards to the wonders of nature, nobody knows, but many pretend to know. (124) He approached nature as a divine presence on earth, comparing various trees to temples and round tables of the gods . He compared berries to wild forbidden fruits, too fair for mortal tastes. Thoreau said that these were the shrines he visited both in the summer and in the winter (137) He truly believed that the earth we tread is as promising as heaven itself, proclaiming that heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads (189). Thoreau stressed that
we can never have enough nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and provides freshets. (211)
Thoreau had the attitude that all of nature- whether it appears to be helpful or harmful- fits into a mater plan, one that is designed for all.
Unlike his attitude towards nature, Thoreau s attitude towards other people changes through the course of Walden. When the story begins, Thoreau displayed a feeling of pity towards his fellow man who lead lives of quiet desperation. (10) He believes that the better part of a mans existence is plowed into the soil for compost (8); the average person is inevitably lost in the machinery we call society. He also said that he felt sorry for those whose misfortune it is to have inherited…for (possessions ) are more easily acquired than gotten rid of. (10) Those who inherit are draw further into the materialism that characterizes today s society.
Thoreau s tone gradually shifts towards criticism and skepticism. In the second chapter, Thoreau explained that a man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone but most of our lives are frittered away by detail (60). He criticized those who simply accepted society s goals and values asking why should we knock under and go with the stream? (70) In the next chapter Thoreau criticized the literary preferences of his fellow towns people and education in general, saying that most had no taste for the best… in literature (the classics) (76). He stated with a tint of humorous cynicism that most men are still afraid of the dark (92) for no justifiable reason. Of our society in general, Thoreau stated that society is cheap , and that people are polite simply to make their meetings tolerable (95). He called us avarice and selfish (114) for claiming to posses a part of nature. He also blamed society s materialism for common crime, saying that if all men lived as simply as he did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. (119)
Once Thoreau had thoroughly put down both our society and its members, he began to take on a reassuring and advising tone. He began by explaining how important it is for people to go out and actually be active, to get our hands dirty. He said that it is a vulgar error to suppose that you have tasted huckleberry who never plucked them (119) In Housewarming Thoreau again discussed the importance of actually doing something as opposed to simply reading about it when he went about building his chimney and explained the process of chopping wood. In chapter eleven, Thoreau said that all we have to do is listen to our morals because goodness is the only virtue that never fails (148), and that we can better the world by reforming ourselves, for we are the sculptors and painters, and our material is our flesh and blood and bones (150). In the conclusion Thoreau explained that what we do now will effect the world for ever, for the surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of people. (214)
One of Thoreau s intentions when writing this philosophical work was to present his philosophy to others. This would explain why his attitude towards the reader varied more significantly than his attitude towards nature. Thoreau felt nature was a divine presence on Earth. He believed that people could grow closer to this by simplifying their lives. To get this message across Thoreau first told the reader what they couldn t control, where they were not the ones at fault. He then explained to them the faults that they were responsible for. Finally, he explained to them the possibilities, what could be.