The Pursuit and Comprehension of the Wild (5)
Walking as presented in the essay is man’s attempt to seek and to understand the wild, to confront it directly, on its own terms, outside of ordinary life and of what we think we know to be reality. It is a deliberate journey away from the business of life, as is the river trip described in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Thoreau’s removal to the pond in Walden. The metaphor of the walker as a crusader to the Holy Land elevates walking to a spiritual quest. Thoreau reinforces the metaphor by placing the devil himself in opposition to the freedom and wildness that the walker craves. The “Prince of Darkness” is the surveyor who places the stakes that keep the walker away from the landscape. The “Evil One” cries “Whoa!” to the wildness of mankind. In “Walking,” Thoreau more starkly depicts the polarization of nature and civilization as a struggle between the forces of good and evil than he does in A Week or Walden.