An Analysis of Paradoxes in Walden by Henry David Thoreau
In Henry David Thoreaus infamous novel Walden, we are shown endless paradoxes that stem from the authors deep and insightful views into natures universal connections with the human race. Thoreau makes himself a quest of finding the meaning to our existence by investigating nature from different perspectives that our preoccupied society constantly overlooks. Two of these perspectives are of viewing nature from a mountaintop or panoramic view and the other being from our own earthly foundations. At other times watching from an observatory of some cliff or tree, to telegraph any new arrival; or waiting at evening on the hill-tops for the sky to fall, that I might catch something, though never caught much, and that, mannawise, would dissolve again in the sun. In this passage, Thoreau tells us that he is searching for something but he is not sure of what it is exactly. He states that he has taken refuge plenty of times at sites that are at high altitudes to try to see more clearly so that the answers of life can become more apparent. He says he waits for the sky to fall, which of course it cant, but this tells me that he is looking for the unexpected or what hasnt been seen yet.
The word mannawise is a Thoreau original word. I know, by my own knowledge, that manna is another word or prefix for earth, so when he says that the mannawise, would dissolve again in the sun, I believe he is saying that his search has hit another rut without answers and so the sun sets and so does the earths responses of wisdom. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New Yor and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say. This is, and no mistake; and then begin. This is one of Thoreaus strongest statements using the perspective of burrowing down to our own roots to find the buried treasures of life. He tells us to forget everything we have learned and start all over with a fresh and clean state of mind. Once we do this we can experience true reality and not what society has handed us to believe in. To work our way down through all we have been taught by man and to find the real answers in ourselves and nature and if we do this, only then shall we live and be. To my imagination it retained throughout the day more or less of this auroral character, reminding me of a certain house on a mountain which I had visited the year before. This was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit to entertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. The winds which passed over my dwelling were such as sweep over the ridges of mountains, bearing the broken strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrial music Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where.
In this passage, Thoreau gives us another panoramic view of being on a mountaintop where a house is, with a sight so beautiful and magical, that its only comparison would be of Olympus, home of the Greek gods. He gives us a past description of what he remembers about a rundown cabin and even though it was a decaying site, its towering position made it god worthy. Thoreau starts by stating that his present house looked like an auroral character, setting an analogy of the sun shining all around his residence reminding him of the Olympus site. This godlike place on the mountain has natures own music playing by the ways of the wind passing through the holes and hollows of earths landscapes. He uses the metaphor of Greek Mythology to give us a grandeur view of the earth so that we may see clearly and truly to find our real selves and world. 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. This is another statement which Thoreau uses the perspective of the ground and foundation to explain his point of view. I have this mental picture of Thoreau sitting in his doorway of the small cabin facing Walden Pond, making his fascinating inquiries and writing steadily as they come to him. This cabin was supposedly small by the measurements Thoreau gives earlier on, and so someone, like me, might take it that such a confined space may take away from the imagination rather than ignite it. But as Thoreau points out, sitting in his doorway, staring out at all of the inhabitants and land, that he has no feelings of imaginative solitude since there was enough pasture (land) for my imagination.
This is a very important point even though it only consists of one short sentence. Thoreau is reminding us that our imagination lies within us and that no matter what circumstances we are in, it is there and always accessible. So does this mean that our imagination is the lost treasure I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. These lines have been read by millions of people since they were published and have shaped many lives into personal happiness. This is another burrowing perspective but this time the burrowing is done inside of our own lives with the imagery of using our own bodies. Thoreau gives us his thesis statement of why he moved to Walden and what he hoped to find. Cutting our images and lives down to the core, reaching the depths of ones soul, starting over again with just the essentials of the mind is how he will find this lost treasure that so many of us have lost. These passages remind me of a warriors speech before going to battle (like a Spartan! ) in the epic tales, or like the quests for the Holy Grail, stating that if he does not find the meaning of life so obviously then he will continue his search relentlessly making this his human goal. In my opinion, this man really lived with wonderful awareness, taking every hour of being as a gift and savoring everything that life, not society, had to offer.