2. Lawrence’s analysis of Farnham in nature

I agree with Lawrence’s argument which states, “Her (Farnham) romantic appreciation of the benevolence of the natural world unites her with Emerson” (Lawrence, 89). There are several examples in Farnham’s text that relate to Emerson, one of them states “I look out on a picture so filled with repose and beauty, that while I gaze, the hateful stir of the world in which I have lately been mixed up, seems to die out of the universe, and I no longer remember it” (Farnham, 45). Farnham, like Emerson, enters a surreal world of nature untouched by civilization and becomes lost in it, lifted up and flown away to a “fairy scene” (Farnham, 46). Her experience with nature purifies her spirit, leaving her renewed from the stresses of her hectic life. Farnham, like Emerson, also considers her experience with nature to be separate from reality. She considers nature a place of solitude because when she is interrupted by her children, she feels as if the charm of the world she was experiencing while surrounded by nature to be broken (Farnham, 47).

Lawrence also argues that “Farnham comes close to condemning the Edenic characteristics of the terrain, suggesting that the land’s bounty encourages the self-centered, riotous lifestyle of its inhabitants” (Lawrence, 95). Farnham sees the effect this new bountiful land is having upon the people and even herself, becoming “engrossed with her own private interests and concerns than with any of a public character” (Lawrence, 95). Lawrence leaves this section underdeveloped, not diving into the social and ecological implications that arise from these self-centered lifestyles. The social implications that arise are the dissolution of a sense of community to pursue a false sense of wealth. This dissolving of communities alienates people from one another. Desiring material wealth over connections with other human beings leads to a society much like the one we have today, where people are expendable and social status through monetary means is desirable. The ecological implications of this self-centered lifestyle are evident with the destruction mining leaves behind. The settlers dig up the earth in hopes of finding gold beneath its surface, but what they cannot see is the scar they are inflicting on the earth as well as themselves. The earth their mining leaves behind cannot be lived or built upon, nor can they farm on that land. This may not seem relevant since the settlers can live in another area, but any destruction upon the earth in such a wasteful manner should be thoroughly considered before digging up the land for some sense of wealth.

Lawrence, Deborah. Writing the Trail. Ch./ Art:85-92 Pub. University of Iowa Press 2006

Farhham, Eliza W. California In-Doors and Out; On, How We Farm, Mine, and Live Generally in the Golden States. Ch./ Art: Excerpts p.  28-31, 91-94. Pub. Dix, Edwards & Co 1856


One response to this post.

  1. I agree with your analysis, although I think Lawrence comes across as a little harsh with her statement that Farnham “comes close to condemning the Edenic characteristics of the terrain” (Lawrence, 95). As you stated in your first paragraph, Farnham has a great respect for nature and views it as a place of great spiritual value, and I feel her gripe is more with human nature than with nature itself, even though she does use some strong language. As Farnham states, “Discouraged, hardened, made reckless of the most sacred duties, a man so situated can only be preserved by the rarest purity, self-respect, and firmness from giving himself up to the lawless habits and vile allurements that surround him” (Farnham, 303). Here, she points out human virtues as a cure for the human moral failures that arise as a result of life on the frontier. While the bounties of nature do inspire these moral failing, Farnham seems at least faintly hopeful that human beings can find it within themselves to live off the land in an unspoiled and uncorrupted fashion.

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