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Binary Organization in Thoreau's "Walden"

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Walden would be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in American literature, environmental literature, or intentional living. But Walden is so much more than the story of one man’s retreat into the woods to ‘transact some private business.’ Thoreau’s disarming directness and naturalistic style aside, Walden not an incidental text. With extensive revisions, distilling a little over two years into one, every chapter, sentence and word of Walden has a purpose and place.

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They sought nature as an escape from a society they found flaws in.Timothy Treadwell seemed to be truly harmonious with nature. For 13 years he lived among the bears in the Alaskan wilderness. With his video camera, he captured moments much closer, and personal than any journalist could dare. The camera was his only defense from nature. He became an overnight celebrity and activist for animals. In fact Treadwell never charged a fee when he talked at schools. He enjoyed his work so much, it was a passion and a way of life, not a career or scheme. Yet the story behind Treadwell goes much deeper. Treadwell grew up missing something, he felt as if civilization wasn’t for him. After college he turned to alcoholism to “cure” himself from the ever corrupting world. Treadwell’s rage is almost incandescent. He fights civilization itself. Just as Thoreau had in Walden, Tredwell turned to nature to awaken the unwakeable inside him. He seemed to connect with animals in a way he couldn’t connect with people. Treadwell pursued the Alaskan wilderness and quickly became fascinated by bears. He was all alone, except for his video camera. “The camera was his only present companion. It was his instrument to explore the wilderness around him. But increasingly, it became something more. He started to scrutinize his innermost feelings, his demons, his exhilarations. Facing the lens of a camera took on the quality of a confessional”. In front of his camera, Treadwell seemed to show his inner thoughts. His problems with relationships, and his desire to get away from it all. Treadwell said “I’m in love with my animal friends. I’m in love with my animal friends. I’m in love with my animal friends. I’m very, very troubled”. He knew his problems. It wasn’t ignorance that killed him, Treadwell merely killed himself. Treadwell may just have been the true modern Transcendentalist.

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He compares his state of solitude to that of God: “God is alone — but the devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he is legion.” (Thoreau 214-215) in his solitude Thoreau establishes a connection with Nature and in his self-realization concurs that he too is “partly leaves and vegetable mould” (Thoreau 216). This realization unites him to the natural world around him physically. Thoreau not only professes a metaphysical oneness with nature, but also believes that man too is made of the same material as plants and animals, and so cannot profess his superiority over nature. Man has historically established his hegemonic superiority over the natural world. Thoreau, like William Bertram, shows that man’s claim to superiority is a figment of his creation and does not confer to the natural laws devised by God.

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For the most part, through reading Thoreau’s Walden the reader not only gets an insight into the individuals deep appreciation for nature, but one can also see it as an example of putting into action his various philosophical concepts

As can be seen throughout the text, Thoreau is eager in his encouragement for his reader to take heed of his advice – to live a life of simplicity in order to gain happiness and self-fulfilment.

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Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and COmpany, 1882. Print.

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