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Analysis of 'My First Summer in The Sierra' by John Muir

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Around the mid-eighteen century, pastoral literature was popular in Europe, and the poets and author in this era try to depict the picture of rural life, involving people in nature. In contrast to the pastoral literature, the wilderness literature that appeared around the mid-nineteen century in America focuses more on a portrayal of nature that is previously untouched by humans.

In John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra, the author uses “wilderness” template, describing the wilderness is open and boundless, to present his experience in the Sierra Nevada. John Muir utilizes imagery, spiritual language, reference of deep thoughts of the wilderness, and diction emphasizing the insincerity of his companions and visitors from city in regard to the wilderness in his book. Although he never explicitly states it, Muir tries to use the “wilderness” template — through using those linguistic devices — to reveal the beauty of nature and further convince the public to cherish the nature of wilderness.

The imagery in Muir’s work displays how animals and plants have a harmonious relationship with nature and reveals the beauty of nature by depicting these vivid pictures in the wilderness. Muir is touched by those wild animals’ vitality, valiancy, intelligence. “Coons, coyotes, and owls stirred the silence here and there, while crickets and hulas made a cheerful, continuous music, so fitting and full that it seemed a part of the very body of the night.” On June 29th, he was attracted by a kind of interesting birds that fit around the fall draw tourists’ attention by thrusting heads under the water from time to time in a jerking, nodding, frisky way. As for Muir, they are definitely fearless angels hiding in the wilderness. The existence of those lovely birds brings vitality to the wilderness. Besides, Muir uses personification to regard those birds as poets, “Every breath the little poet draws is part of a song, for all the air about the rapids and falls is beaten into music, and its first lessons must begin before it is born by the thrilling and quivering of the eggs in unison with the tones of the falls”. A. Sundown, and I must to camp. Goodnight, friends three, brown bear, rugged boulder of energy in groves and gardens fair as Eden; restless fussy fly with gauzy wings stirring the air around all the world; and grasshopper, crisp electric spark of joy enlivening the massy sublimity of the mountains like the laugh of a child. Thank you, thank you all three for your quickening company. Heaven guide every wing and leg. Good night, friends three, good-night. Through conveying nature as beauty, Muir tries fostering a positive view to encourage

When the little squirrel jumped out of Muir’s pen, I felt the happiness of Muir. His happiness is more conspicuous on the grass where the lily is blooming. He wrote a Washington lily seen in the shrub. The brush touched the snow lotus of the Chinese literati, but the feelings of Muir were not purely extraordinary and look up. His pen was filled with worldly love, and happiness was born. This is love. He wrote the grass full of lilies, the clumsy big bear was rolling, the deer with food fortune, and the bright sunshine in the mountains, the bear rolled the fat body between the lilies, and never hurt the lily, how much Cute things on the earth.

The spiritual language that occurs throughout the whole book characterizes a divine experience of nature and helps the readers gain a sense of awe to indicate the appreciation of the beauty of nature. On June 14th, Muir found an ancient flood boulder, regarded as the most romantic spot by him, located in the middle of a stream channel. He then concludes “the place seemed holy, where one might hope to see God”. Through personification, the nearby waterfall is singing Nature’s old love songs with enthusiasm, while the stars peeking through the leaf seems to join this lovely song. Muir “Thanks be to God for this immortal gift” and asserts that this precious experience will be engraved in his mind permanently. Muir treats God as the enthusiastic craftsman who never stops decorating his natural garden. Involving in this fabulous wilderness, Muir imagines himself in a … where… In the wilderness, humans can easily embrace the grace of God since everything turns out to be as holy as him so that they will eventually open. Besides, by emphasizing humans in wilderness tend to feel rich and beatific since God is everywhere in these hold temples. Through a lot of descriptions about the god connecting with nature, Muir attempts to highlight the importance of the nature. Where does this fearlessness come from?

The nature from the praise of Muir – “the temple of God”

Muir praised the beauty of nature everywhere is “from the beauty of the powerful.” In this palace with no language, God constantly arranges majestic cliffs, soaring waterfalls, millennial giant cedar, large clusters of lilies, bouncing grasshoppers, low flying black grouse and sweet air, fragrant springs, cool moonlight Even avalanches, thunders, fires, and the souls of these beautiful sights are eager to pour into the divine blessings, the miraculous beauty, the joy of life, the undivided love, the joy of no reason, and the birth of the air. The tranquility, the eternality of time, and the powerful power. In this way, the human mind can be changed instantaneously only through the amazing beauty of the Creator: “I sat a long time beneath the tallest fronds, and never enjoyed anything in the way of a bower of wild leaves more strangely impressive. Only spread a fern frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in. The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain, —a magic wand in Nature’s hand, —every devout mountaineer knows its power; but the marvelous beauty value of what the Scotch call a bracken in a still dell, what poet has sung this? ” In nature, a temple of God, the revelation, enlightenment, and nourishment we learn in nature are purer, deeper, and closer to truth than any artificial wooden church, stone temple, and golden temple. After all, human religion is the original intention. Good, but full of secular rights and interests, even more than the secular power of power. Therefore, rather than the beauty of nature is “from the beauty of the powerful”, it is better to say that the peace of mind is born in the “power of greatness and beauty.”

Through the use of the reference of his deep thoughts about the nature of wilderness, Muir reveals his happiness and satisfaction towards the beauty of nature and further raise a sense of valuing nature. Textual Evidence: “Though the water is now low in the river, the usual difficulty occurred in getting the flock across it. Every sheep seemed to be invincibly determined to die any sort of dry death rather than wet its feet. Carlo has learned the sheep business as perfectly as the best shepherd, and it is interesting to watch his intelligent efforts to push or frighten the silly creatures into the water. They had to be fairly crowded and shoved over the bank; and when at last one crossed because it could not push its way back, the whole flock suddenly plunged in headlong together, as if the river was the only desirable part of the world. Aside from mere money profit one would rather herd wolves than sheep.” The deeper the solitude, the less is the sense of loneliness, and the nearer are our friends. Now bread and tea, fir bed and good-night to Carlo, a look at the sky lilies, and death sleep until the dawn of another Sierra to-morrow.

Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.

Muir was happy with nature, but he would be lonely eventually. Therefore, when he felt that his friend also came to the Sierra Nevada, at the foot of this mountain, Muir flew down the mountain with Carlo. After spending two days with his friends, after the friend left and euphemistically refused the invitation to the top of his house, Muir ridiculed himself and said it seems that he was not great enough to let the busy world stop. So, when his friends left, Muir took Carlo back to the camp on the top of the mountain.

Last but not least, Muir utilizes diction emphasizing the insincerity of his companions and tourists from city toward nature to express his disappointment and dismissiveness, and to imply that people should adore the nature wilderness. Unfortunately, many people, such as most shepherds, sheep owners and tourists, fail to experience the holiness and the wilderness since they all turn a blind eye to the wild beauty. He is disappointed by the reaction of other shepherds and tourists who also exposed to the beauty of nature. “The California sheep owner is in haste to get rich. As for the shepherd, his case is still worse, especially in winter when he lives alone in a cabin. For, though stimulated at times by hopes of one day owning a flock and getting rich like his boss, he at the same time is likely to be degraded by the life he leads, and seldom reaches the dignity or advantage—or disadvantage—of ownership. The degradation in his case has for cause one not far to seek. He is solitary most of the year, and solitude to most people seems hard to bear.” Employed shepherd like balid treats the wilderness as free forage and their greedy desire, preventing their eyes from the amazing scenery. The tourists Muir came across also let him down because they not only broke the tranquility of wilderness, but also pay little attention to the beauty of nature.

In My summer, Muir describes the tourists from city as a group of people in gaudy attire with strange expressions. When they travel through the wilderness, they were even “scaring the wild creatures, and one might fancy that even the great pines would be disturbed and groan aghast.” Another group Muir encountered seemed to care little about the glorious view of the wilderness as well, even though they purposely came all the way to this sierra and have spent a considerable time and money. What upsets Muir is that wandering in the wilderness; many people fail to realize the magnificence and resplendence of the beauty of nature. He tries to tell people that we as humans should cherish it instead.

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Analysis of ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’ by John Muir. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from
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