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Thursday, April 5, 2012

MLA documentation of my book!

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971.  Print.

Why did I choose this book? I don't even know anymore. Err, I mean...

             Upon hearing the summary, Walden seemed like a book I could relate to. I've always wanted to spend time in solidarity, for self awareness purposes and all. Also, every other book I wanted to read was fiction. So it was also sort of a last resort and I ran with it.

What was the purpose?

             Walden was to describe Thoreau's life philosophies, and encourage readers to apply them to their own daily lives. Basically, the whole novel was a narration of Thoreau's experiences and the wisdom he gained from them. He wouldn't lay them all out if he didn't find them of value. And not just in his own life, but in mankind as a whole.

What kind of person do you think the author is?

                 Honestly, I think Thoreau is a bit crazy. He has a reputation for great works, but after finally reading one, I think Thoreau is more glorified than actually living up to his name. He walks the line of praiseworthy literature and shortcomings, blurring the line in between. This then cause many to, understandably, worship unworthy pieces with a gilded cover. Maybe it's just me, but I can't see what makes this guy so special. He also seems like a big jerk.
               At one time, he meets an Irish family in a shed. He criticizes their economic situation, and eventually gives up hope on them. At least that's how it seems. It was almost hypocritical, how he spent all this time preaching hope and optimism, only to go against himself in this scene. It may have been misinterpretation, but regardless.
              Also, Thoreau's craziness shows through with his constant lessons and morals he finds. The ants are a life lesson. The depth of the pond is a life lesson. The colors of the trees are a life lesson. Maybe it's a part of transcendentalism. Maybe Thoreau truly feels that way. Or maybe he's just crazy. 

Explain the mood of the book and support it with quotes.

             Thoreau most often creates a philosophical and even whimsical mood. To him, nearly everything holds a lesson to be learned, and that progress is an illusion. In fact, life is an illusion. For example, "the Universe is wider than our views of it,” (Thoreau). Thoreau refutes the idea that 'the cure to sickness is a change of scenery' with the true cure is a change of soul.
             In addition, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," (Thoreau). This implies philosophical ideas, extending into a level further then presented on the front. Thoreau isn't just at Walden to learn about himself. He represents universal ideas, that anyone can hold. 
             Lastly, Thoreau's mood shines through when he is constantly questioning the meaning of life, what it is to live, and what he lives for. "I went to the wood because I wished to live deliberately, to front the essential facts of life, and see if i could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived," (Thoreau). This is the main point of the book. Why are we here? What is living? How can I really live? How does one avoid dying without ever experiencing living? The mentioned quote implies all of these questions, going deep down to the core of life. 
            

Which element is most important to the story?

             The main character, Thoreau, is most important to Walden's significance. After all, the main point of the book is about the life lessons he learned throughout his time. It doesn't particularly matter where he was, how he learned them, or when it happened. All that matters is Thoreau's point of view and wisdom gained. Any other character would've had a completely different outcome, maybe even jeopardizing the success of such a story.

Discuss three major incidents.

           Thoreau takes a trip into town for some supplies and gets arrested and held for the night for refusing to pay a poll tax. Despite this disturbance, Thoreau isn’t really fazed. He still finds no need to use basic safety precautions like locking his doors. The incident only makes him more aware of the fact that only the government is a threat to him, and even then he doesn’t have much to lose.
          Another time, Thoreau is marveling about Walden Pond. Nothing outright spectacular happens, but the significance still remains. Thoreau considers the origins of the Pond and all the hidden beauty that comes with it. Animals gather around, the weather agrees, and all is peaceful. The atmosphere gives off pure serenity, and it’s a major personal moment for Thoreau. It’s almost as if he becomes one with the Pond, with nature, and with himself at that very moment.
            Lastly, Thoreau sits alone during a cold winter night reminiscing about previous owners of the Walden land and experiences he had with them, feeling sympathy toward their harsh losses. This event reaches one of many themes of the book: how universal and connected the world really is. It didn’t matter who owned the land previously or how they used it. It impacted every single person down the road in that situation. They all shared the same piece of land, as many did before and many will in the future. It also demonstrates how insignificant individuals really are to the greater world, bringing out feelings of humility, and concern for one’s true place in the world. 

Compare and contrast this book to the previous one read in class.

             Walden is nothing like Life As We Knew It bu Suzanne Collins.  The former has a positive outlook nearly the entire time of its duration, while the latter incorporates pessimism into everything that happens. Every. Single. Thing. Miranda was always whining about how the world was ending, how hungry she was, how unfair her mother was, how ungrateful she thought of herself, and on and on and on. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's on the whole other side of the spectrum from Walden. Thoreau was always bringing up how grateful he was for his lifestyle, perspective, and more. He hardly ever looked down upon his choices, and surely never pitied himself for making them.
               However, both are similar in that they lack action. Honestly, nothing really happens in either story. Life As We Knew It is a bit better with the plot. But Thoreau uses his lack of plot to his advantage. He preaches more of life lessons, and what he learned from his experiences with nothing. Miranda also bases her journal entries on the fact that practically nothing happens to her. They both lose contact from a majority of the outside world. All in all, they were both enjoyable books. At least to some extension.

What was the main idea of the book?

          People are too caught up in "making a living" and forget to truly live. They dedicate their lives to consumerism and "producing a good harvest", but leave the 'human harvest' to wither and rot.This idea is pushed in a variety of ways throughout Walden, intertwining other morals and lessons in its wake motivating Thoreau to continue on with his experiment.

What was praiseworthy?

         AP lang is supposed to focus more on rhetorical strategies, but the content was the best part of this book. Thoreau spends two years (two years!) in basically isolation. His persistence is admirable. That alone is a feat in itself, but Thoreau goes even further and maintains a positive outlook about the whole thing. He finds life lessons in every minute detail, which admittedly gets annoying after a while, but the fact is that he never lost hope. In a society like today, very few people could do such a task. Being used to action filled, cry-your-heart-out, drama heavy plot lines, this was a nice  change.

What are the shortcomings?

             Thoreau presented his opinions directly and as if only his opinions were right. After a while, it felt like he wasn't only stating his beliefs, but criticizing others unlike his own. Like when he met the Irish family in the shed. He spent most the time preaching to them about pulling their lives together economically, accusing them of being inherently Irish poor, and deeming them a lost cause in the end. He also made a lesson out of everything. Which is understandable, considering he lived in practically solidarity for over two years. He probably went a little crazy within that time. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with presenting a life lesson in every aspect of life. It just seemed overbearing after a while. The most important lessons lost significance because there were too many to keep track off, similar to the way that cliche phrases lose their meaning.