DAILY WALKING 11-21-2014

The Pursuit and Comprehension of the Wild (3)

In defining all that he means by wildness, or “the Wild,” Thoreau develops the metaphor of “the West.” The west, the direction in which he prefers to walk, evokes the American frontier and the vast, unexplored, wild landscape beyond it, and at the same time suggests the uncharted, boundless, as yet unrealized possibility of man. His discussion of the west reveals the powerful fascination that westward expansion held for Thoreau.

In defining all that he means by wildness, or “the Wild,” Thoreau develops the metaphor of “the West.” The west, the direction in which he prefers to walk, evokes the American frontier and the vast, unexplored, wild landscape beyond it, and at the same time suggests the uncharted, boundless, as yet unrealized possibility of man. His discussion of the west reveals the powerful fascination that westward expansion held for Thoreau.

Although territorial acquisition as supported by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny had, in the spread of slavery, consequences Thoreau found unacceptable, the symbolic west in “Walking” possesses a mythological significance. The west represents health, vigor, new ventures with unknown outcomes, and the future. The west is full of promise:

. . . I saw that [the west] was a Rhine stream of a different kind; that the foundations of castles were yet to be laid, and the famous bridges were yet to be thrown over the river; and I felt that this was the heroic age itself, though we know it not. . . .

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About TaeHun Yoon

Retired Pastor of the United Methodist Church
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