What a thoughtful reading of this interesting passage, Kira! The manuscript page below and the two that follow it show Thoreau’s draft in the A version:
These images are from HM 924, The Manuscript of Walden, in the Huntington Library Digital Collection.
And here are the relevant images from Versions E and F.
Reflecting on “Visitors” as Thoreau developed it between 1846 and 1854, there is a conscious effort to celebrate those individuals on the farthest vestiges of society– not unlike Thoreau himself– and to portray them in a favorable light. He suggests different types of genius in different ways of life, and doesn’t deign to place the value of one genius over another. Thoreau’s ear is impartial. He listens to everyone and everything with equal consideration. The only criticism he offers is of those whose opinions are most often trusted unequivocally by society: ministers, doctors, lawyers, and housewives. There is no reason their words should hold more weight than anyone else’s. In fact, we should doubt their opinions most of all.
Thoreau was a mite more critical of society in earlier versions of “Visitors”– he omits a dramatic passage from the original manuscript, wherein two young women fail to return the water dipper they borrowed from him, and he writes them off as “pariahs of the moral world.” The original ending of “Visitors” were the lines: “these are the folks that worry the man / that lives in the house that I built”, which is a rather pessimistic reaction to society. In later versions, he tailors this chapter around the surprising wisdom we stand to gain from genuine interactions with all people, especially those who are overlooked by society. At this time, Thoreau also helped harbor escaped slaves on their journey to freedom in Canada. Although this occurred for the most part at his parent’s house in Concord (because the house at Walden Pond was too small), he transposes this event to “Visitors”, commenting on the extent of his empathy almost ten years before the Civil War.
February 20, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Posted in: SNHUmans
See in context
February 20, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Well said, Ainsley. Given that he had TB and financial constraints, he lived that advice.
February 18, 2021 at 8:52 pm
This paragraph also discusses, as I mentioned in one of my earlier comments, Thoreau’s philosophy and how it intertwines with nature. He states that no matter what your life is like, you do not give up and reject it and complain about it. Thoreau believes the way to live your best life with what you are given is to face your problems head on instead of ignoring them because they will only continue to develop and get worse. Thoreau states things don’t change; we do. While you may be stuck with things and situations, you yourself are not stuck if you change your thinking.
February 18, 2021 at 8:47 pm
This paragraph was super important in the sense that Thoreau’s safe place, his favorite location with his favorite sounds and scents of the trees and waters and animals, became a feeling of normalcy. When Thoreau first moved into the woods, he was in awe of everything around him, and took in everything he possibly could. However, after having the same surroundings and doing the same things day after day, Thoreau was no longer satisfied in this lifestyle he had created. He states that he thought he had more lives to live, and I think that by this he means he has very different experiences ahead of him. While the woods offered and taught Thoreau so much, he can only experience so much inside of the woods, and he realized that he had gained everything he could from this experience and it was time to move on.
February 18, 2021 at 8:26 pm
I really enjoyed this paragraph. Thoreau discusses how thinking better thoughts can lead to living a better life. Looking at things with optimism can often make bad things less bad, which Thoreau touches upon. A lot of Thoreau’s writings are entirely based around not only nature but also the way he thinks and his own personal philosophy. Thoreau believes we are blessed to be alive no matter the circumstances and it is up to us to make the best out of what we are given in life, as he displays with his very simplistic and seemingly lonesome lifestyle.
February 18, 2021 at 8:08 pm
This paragraph speaks a lot about Thoreau’s intense attention to detail. Not only does he detail the thickness and thinness of the ice, but he also discusses the relation between the thickness of the ice and the way it melts. Thoreau also discusses in-depth the way that the temperature causes state changes in the ice and the way it impacts the water at different lengths. I doubt many people, and I know I haven’t, have ever put that much thought and consideration into ice and the way it melts. While it also speaks a lot to Thoreau’s surroundings, it speaks even more to his attention to detail, especially in nature. He notices everything he possibly can, and thinks about it and what it means as opposed to letting it be a passing thought, which is what most do.
February 18, 2021 at 4:36 pm
I love the line about being more alone when we are around people we have nothing in common with, compared to being by yourself.
February 18, 2021 at 4:29 pm
[ I one evening overtook one of my townsmen, who has accumulated what is called “a handsome property”,—though I never got a fair view of it,—on the Walden road, driving a pair of cattle to market, who inquired of me how I could bring my mind to give up so many of the comforts of life. I answered that I was very sure I liked it passably well; I was not joking. And so I went home to my bed, and left him to pick his way through the darkness and the mud to Brighton,—or Bright-town,—which place he would reach some time in the morning.]
Another example of Thoreau exemplifying his passion and reasoning for isolation.
February 17, 2021 at 10:57 am
This paragraph is showing how Thoreau felt about falling into a sense of normalcy and habit, he was not fond of it. He is also saying humanity will have a lasting impact on Earth regardless of how minimalistic or big people get, so long as there is a habit of doing things by everyone, there will be a notable footprint of those habits.
February 17, 2021 at 10:52 am
I really enjoy seeing the seasonal birds come back from the south or wherever they migrate to and I had the same appreciation when Thoreau showed the level of excitement towards the sparrow.
The way Thoreau talks about the grass and sort of compares it to his own life was particularly interesting. Grass, even though frozen and covered for most of Winter, still comes back to life and grows quickly and strongly as compared to people getting busier since the air is warmer.
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