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In this excerpt of Walden, Henry David Thoreau addresses the millions of people that “are awake enough for physical labor” and tries to explain to them to properly open their eyes and appreciate nature more. He justifies nature’s importance through rhetorical questions, then through symbolism, first person plural pronouns, and finally through loose sentences. Thoreau concentrates on what developments are taking place in the time period that he’s in and the toll it’s taking on the society around “which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep”. He establishes an irritated tone for the clueless and foolish laborers in society.
In Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau touches areas of the gullibility of the everyday people in terms of not enjoying life’s true essence through use of rhetorical questions, symbolism, and finally through first person plural pronouns. On the figurative aspect, Thoreau lays out his passage by asking rhetorical questions over “slumbering” that almost every person undertakes. Telling men to wake up from their deep sleep of blindness, he asks these questions to get them to process the idea of what life would be like if they lived in the woods, in isolation. The rhetorical questions focus on the actual slumber that people obtain in their hard work life and the effect it brings to their knowledge. If most people hadn’t lacked their needed hours, “they would have performed something”. He uses an aphorism to persuade people to focus on what’s not only in front of them but as well as around them by telling them “to be awake is to be alive” as understanding this message will give them a sense of what true freedom is. On the literal aspect, Thoreau goes in more on his “exertion” of intelligence by explaining that involving yourself in nature is the best way to live your life.
In the passage, Thoreau references to the details on the painting of a picture to make it look “beautiful”. He continues his use of symbolism by explaining that the more details we add, the glorious it turns out from all the effort that we spend on it. This is what “morally we can do” with our lives being our paintings and our paintbrush being our experience. During this time, Thoreau would’ve been considered crazed for wanting this “experience” but to Thoreau, he went to the woods in isolation “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life” – this expressed his transcendentalist side. This transcendentalist side of his caused him to rebel against the principles that society followed and seek out his own sanctuary of peace. In terms of the structure of the passage, Thoreau starts off with an ellipsis indicating that the passage was taken out of another set of thoughts and continued on. He also includes usage of first person plural pronouns such as “we” when talking about giving up. “If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done”.
To sum up he explains that if we failed to understand the importance of our lives and nature, then we together have failed as a society “to be awake”. He also uses the first person plural pronoun “I” to talk about his reasons for isolation by wanting “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”. This is to lure in “slumbering” readers that are not convinced of Thoreau’s beliefs of isolation and for those that were blind, after reading the passage would be able to properly visualize why Thoreau loves nature so much.
After reading the passage, Thoreau as an individual can be exhibited as a serene and invigorating instead of harsh and self-centered. Talking about society and bringing himself in as a part of the conversation, he shows his reasoning for his actions, for which he deems pure. He uses his own experienced “awakening” to guide other people in helping to realize their “toxic” surroundings. He expresses worry in others staying “trapped” in a life that isn’t surrounded by nature. His concern is also dealt with man not being able to experience the purity of essence that is life. “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor” is him expressing his Transcendentalist principles and encouraging members of society that the pride that they carry within themselves will increase for themselves and by the people that they know. Elevating their experience with nature would open their heart and mind to all the new possibilities that they can experience or what life would have to offer which is endless.
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