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My General Response to Thoreau’s and Emerson’s Environmental Ideas

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Thoreau appears to write with a stronger stance on opposing materialism and conforment; I consequently tend to disagree with him more compared to Emerson. I personally believe that material objects are vital to a fulfilling, efficient life and are a sign of success; one is absolutely on top of their life if they are able to afford a sports car or a new luxury watch. They should be congratulated as they indeed are hardworking individuals and contribute to their society. In addition, Thoreau also encourages us to abandon our possession and live introverted lives. To my mind, this is unproductive and unfulfilling. Similarly to Emerson, Thoreau also encouraged his readers to live their lives as rebels, which will likely result in social ridicule and distress.

On the other hand, I agree with his analysis that “…on the chopping sea of civilized life…indeed who succeeds” as this conveys that one is forced along whatever path society dictates. He stresses that this will will make powerless over their own life and that they must take personal responsibility. Even through I am against his conforment views, I find his opinion that those who conform to their society will ultimately lose their individuality to be correct. For example, many people will abandon their beliefs or desires so live fake lives (a homosexual man may stay hidden in order to avoid ridicule or anger). He also uses the quote “building castles in the air” as a metaphor of one’s aspirations and dreams. Although he is encouraging us to follow our dreams, this metaphor conveys that Thoreau is suggesting that we must have stability and foundations. Finally, Thoreau stated that one may “have some pleasant thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.” I partially agree with this statement as wealth and success do not always correlate with happiness although it is also evident that happiness will remain more difficult to achieve in a “poorhouse”.

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Emerson and Thoreau both demonstrate strong and similar views; both encourage their readers to leave society and pursue nature for self reflection and truth. They also motivate their readers to live a more simple life, arguing that this will lead to a more satisfying and enjoyable life, with Thoreau stating “I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” Emerson appears to be more symbolic in his work and writes with a bigger emphasize on God and the spiritual connections one can acquire through nature: “the rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him from what he touches.” On the other hand, Thoreau objects more to materialism and is more political in his views on life: “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.” Both Emerson and Thoreau conclude that people that conform to society, which they consider a mistake, lose their individuality and personal desires.

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