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From Emerson to Thoreau. American Literature I 15/11/2004 Cecilia H.C. Liu Info. Provided by Dr. Murphy. Thoreau ’ s Walden (1854). Thoreau ’ s Walden is a book about nature in the woods at Concord and a book on how to live.

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from emerson to thoreau
From Emerson to Thoreau

American Literature I

15/11/2004

Cecilia H.C. Liu

Info. Provided by Dr. Murphy

thoreau s walden 1854
Thoreau’s Walden (1854)
  • Thoreau’s Walden is a book about nature in the woods at Concord and a book on how to live.
  • “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (915, B1855).
thoreau s walden 1854 2
Thoreau’s Walden (1854) (2)
  • Thoreau tried to become aware of how he was connected to Nature, and put Emerson’s ideas into practice. As he says in Walden, in cities and towns people live “lives of quiet desperation.”
  • Thoreau saw many people living unhappy lives in society, and chose to live as a full-time hermit at Walden Pond for two years.
  • In Walden, he chose the written words to celebrate what he saw and experienced, to accept himself and to lead his readers to marvel at the wonders of Nature.
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 1 build your own world
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (1)—Build your own world
  • Emerson and Thoreau share a good many characteristics in expressing the idea of building people’s own world.
  • Emerson, the more philosophical one, gives people principles on life with pure ideas in minds, while Thoreau is the one that is more practical and believe that to experience the idea of world building, one has to do it with his own hands.
  • Example and Quotes
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 1 build your own world5
“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know, then, that the world exists for you. . . . Build, therefore your own world. As fast as you can conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions” (524, B1134).

Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; [ . . .] Now put the foundations under them” (962, B1977).

Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. . .” (915, 1855).

“The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, [ . . . ] be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel” (873, B1813).

“I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living” (904, B1844).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (1)—Build your own world
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 2 originality
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (2)—Originality
  • Both Emerson and Thoreau believes that we should enjoy an original relation to the world.
  • The difference is that, the way and tone these two authors put it is different, with the former more like a text, but the latter more colloquial.
  • In writing, Emerson anticipates the scientific hypothesis of Darwin. Thoreau, was more at-home in the outdoors than Emerson and could write playfully and humorously about our affinity to cats and other “brute animals.” In a way, Thoreau was renewing the basic religious experience of awe and wonder before Nature.Examples and Quotes:
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 2 originality7
Thoreau: “Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. . . . Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young. . . . One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels” (871, B1812).

Emerson: “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” (496, B1106).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (2)—Originality
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 3 blindness and vision
Emerson: “The ruin or the blank, that we see when we look at nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things. . .” (523, B1133).

Emerson: “But when the fact is seen under the light of an idea, the gaudy fable fades and shrivels. We behold the real higher law. To the wise, therefore, a fact is true poetry” (524, B1134)

Thoreau: “Look at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all got to pieces in your account of them” (918, B1858).

Thoreau: “If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces. . .” (919, B1859).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (3)—Blindness and Vision
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 4 the eye
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (4)—The Eye
  • In terms of the eye, Emerson’s ideas tends to be philosophical, and develops the abstract term of “transparent eye-ball,” believing that as the world circulates around him, he gets to see everything.
  • On the other hand, Thoreau uses a more down-to-earth approach by the objects we could see with our eye in nature, and not the terms philosophically.
  • Examples and Quotes
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 4 the eye12
Emerson: “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God” (499, B1109).

Thoreau: “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature” (941, B1905).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (4)—The Eye
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 5 landscape and horizon
Emerson: “There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. . . . In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature” (498, B1108-09).

Thoreau: “With respect to landscapes,--

‘I am monarch of all I survey,

My right there is none to dispute.’

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only” (911, B1851).

Example 2

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (5)—Landscape and Horizon
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 5 landscape and horizon16
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (5)—Landscape and Horizon
  • Thoreau: “Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagination. The low shrub-oak plateau to which the opposite shore arose, stretched away toward the prairies of the West and the steppes of Tartary. . . . ‘There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon’—said Damodara. . .” (913, B1853).
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 6 stars
Thoreau: “The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment!” (872, B1812)

Example 2

Emerson: “But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things. . . . The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are always inaccessible. . .” (497-98, 1107-08).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (6)—Stars
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 6 stars18
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (6)—Stars
  • Thoreau: “I discovered that my house actually had its site in such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe. If it were worth the while to settle in those parts near to the Pleiades or the Hyades, to Aldebaran or Altair, then I was really there, or at an equal remoteness from the life which I had left behind, dwindled and twinkling with as fine a ray to my nearest neighbor. . .” (914, B1854) .
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 7 the alikeness of nature
Emerson: “Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world” (511, B1121).

Thoreau: “The phenomena of the year take place every day in a pond on a small scale” (1964, Ch. 17).

“What is man but a mass of thawing clay? The ball of the human finger is but a drop congealed. The fingers and tows flow to their extent from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what the human body would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven?” (950, B1968).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (7)—The Alikeness of Nature
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 7 the alikeness of nature 2
Emerson: “The river, as it flows, resembles the air that flows over it; the air resembles the light which traverses it with more subtile currents; the light resembles the heat which rides with it through Space” (512, B1121).

Thoreau: “On land the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it” (943, B1907).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (7)—The Alikeness of Nature (2)
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 8 perceptions of language
Emerson:

Words are signs of natural facts.

Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.

Nature is the symbol of spirit. (504, B1114)

Thoreau: “I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. . . . The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement” (962, B1977).

Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (8)—Perceptions of Language
comparison of thoreau and emerson s nature 9 language usage
Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (9)—Language Usage
  • Thoreau uses puns, giving the words and phrases a double meaning.
  • When he uses these words, in the text, he italicized them to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Examples:
    • “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity” (870, B1810).
    • “To cooperate, in the highest as well as the lowest sense, means to get our living together” (905, B1845).
    • “the shore is shorn” (939, B1903).
    • “Is not the hand a spreading palm leaf with its lobes and veins?” (953, B1968)
thoreau s method on reorienting our perspective to wander
Thoreau’s Method On Reorienting Our Perspective—To Wander
  • “I . . . require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life. . .; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me” (868, B1808).
  • “Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where” (912, B1852).
  • “It is well to have some water in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy to and float the earth” (913, B1853).
  • Morning is when I am awake and there is dawn in me” (915, B1855).
thoreau s method on reorienting our perspective to wander 2
Thoreau’s Method On Reorienting Our Perspective—To Wander (2)
  • “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us” (916, B1856).
  • “The universe is wider than our views of it” (959, B1974).
  • “Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights” (964, B1979).
  • “As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest floor. . .” (966, B1981).