The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau
Background: Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) is a representative of the New England movement of “transcendentalism,” which upheld the individual as standing alone and rebelling against the established orders of society. His friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote of him: “He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the state; he ate no flesh; he drank no wine; he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun.” While he taught, worked in his father’s pencil factory, and did surveying earlier in his life, he devoted most of his life to contemplative reading and study and the observation of nature. His journal entries reflect his gift of careful observation and refreshing writing style. He almost embodies the peculiar style of American individualism: “We go westward,” he once said, “as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure.”
What do you make of Thoreau’s depiction of nature (134-5) and how it helps one overcome the influence of society?
Notice his descriptions of loggers’ camps (136), of Waite’s farm(137), and McCauslin’s hospitality (138), and the Fowler’s houses (140). What stands out in his account? What was the locale like? How was Fowler like or unlike McCauslin? What do you make of his boat trip? What was the significance of Ktaadn? (144)
How does this relate to the intellectual journey? Can you discern any relationship to the themes of this section? To Bonaventure’s framework?