Wilderness in “Walking” as Eden and Freedom

In Henry David Thoreau’s “Walking”, wilderness is likened to Eden. Thoreau sees the wilderness he walks through as the true destiny of man. Civilization, in Thoreau’s mind, is a false way of living that destroys man’s soul. Thoreau calls wilderness “the Holy Land” and calls himself a “knight of a new, or rather an old, order”. This shows how Thoreau believes that true happiness is to be found in the wilderness and not in the societies created by man. This can also be seen in his quote, “Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps” which shows his affinity for all forms of nature not just the beautiful parts.
Thoreau also considers wilderness to be freedom in his essay “Walking”. By leaving the village behind to go walk in the woods made Thoreau feel free from all of his civilized worries and responsibilities. Even domestic animals are able to be reclaimed by nature by breaking the bonds of domesticity. Thoreau describes the escape of his neighbor’s cow as “any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and vigor; as when my neighbor’s cow breaks out of her pasture early in the spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, gray tide, twenty-five or thirty rods wide, swollen by the melted snow”. This shows how he feels that it is always possible for man to free himself and become a part of nature again. The instincts that are inside of every living creature compel them to return to nature and live freely in paradise.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kbudd on October 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I like how you show the resemblances of wilderness to the Garden of Eden. I also have to agree with your points. Thoreau’s quote about his future NOT being apart of “cultivated field” or “towns and cities” is evidence to show how he enjoys the simplicity in life, and how his wishes for the return to this lifestyle. There is no doubt that Thoreau admires the freedom that nature offers, and he understands that we all possess instincts to return to nature where we were originally placed by God, as in the Garden of Eden.

  2. To take the Eden metaphor further, one could argue that Thoreau feels Western society has been cast out of the wilderness, like Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden. He makes several references to humankind’s origins in the wilderness, stating, “Our ancestors were savages” (273); however, he feels that Western society has become industrialized to such an extent that it has lost that connection. The major disparity in the metaphor would be that while God cast man out of Eden, Western society has cast itself out of Eden, according to Thoreau.

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