Both works, Emerson’s “Nature" and Thoreau's "Walden", try to describe and evaluate the role of environment and determine the structure of the world around us. In both works choice of imagery very precisely demonstrates how overwhelmingly our vision of life is dominated by values. Besides demonstrating that there is a world beyond the commercial one. Thoreau slyly turns the tables on his audience by making a virtue of business methods. In his opening remarks he announces his intention of writing "an account" of his life, likewise demanding a simple way from other writers, and so sets up the implied comparison with business and bookkeeping which operates quietly throughout Walden. In contrast to Thoreau, Emerson concentrates on internal and external nature of things trying to structure the world. Thesis Both authors create a detailed characteristic of our world and its main system, thus Thoreau concentrates on external relations between things while Emerson is interested in internal structure and links between things and nature.
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Emerson states that nature consists of a limited amount of time and energy, which may be conserved, saved, spent, employed, squandered, or hoarded—just like property. Emerson suggests that if we must think of life in economic terms, we might at least apply decent economic principles to its management. “Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance” (Emerson). Similar to Emerson, Thoreau underlines that our ways and means, our energy and industry, are not bad, they are simply misdirected. Investing and venturing, improving and accounting, spending and saving, are psychologically and socially necessary. Our mistake is in treating our property and possessions with more care than we take of our lives. Thoreau is serious about living according to economic principles of profit and loss: he stops eating fish because catching and cleaning them is too much trouble and "cost more than it came to" (Thoreau). Defining "the cost of a thing" as "the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it," (Thoreau) he has brilliantly inverted the values behind our economic principles, making life—instead of property—the highest good.
In contrast to Emerson Thoreau states that people should be more economical than we are at present. In readjusting our conception of economy, we find ourselves encroaching upon the territory of sacred tradition. One function of the all-pervasive economic metaphor in Walden is to remind us of another important book in which such metaphor abounds. Thoreau notes the pervasiveness of the leaf design throughout creation, and exclaims with apparent naivete: "Thus it seemed that this one hillside illustrated the principle of all the operations of Nature. The Maker of this earth but patented a leaf" (Thoreau). His mood here is expansive and joyful, but still he cannot resist taking a slap at his audience's capitalist imperative. The good businessman is responsible, attentive and accountable. He keeps careful records; he knows what comes in and what goes out. He is bold, energetic, ingenious; he takes risks. He is industrious and enterprising in the best and broadest sense.
In contrast to Thoreau, Emerson idealizes nature and its relations with the outside world. Emerson diverted energy to the end of observing nature. Emerson writes: “To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child” (Emerson). Being an observer opened him to the influx of nature's redemptive powers. Thus, he described a cycle of energy in which the habits of diversion and openness to nature continually justified themselves by replenishing body and spirit. In those instants when Emerson was ecstatic, susceptible to "the spring of springs," he was living a fantasy much like that of the fountain of youth. He is part of a stream of vibrancy that coursed through himself and his surroundings. A person was not born understanding this sophisticated economy of nature. If he is attentive, he grew into the knowledge and the process as well. This wildness Thoreau reverenced especially when a mind more human and humane, he could harness the impulse. The woodchopper who visited him occasionally was "a great consumer of meat" and not inhuman at all for his diet. His strenuous life demanded pails of cold woodchuck for replenishment. For civilized and socialized humans, for people who did not labor so strenuously or who sweated needlessly in unnatural vocations, there was no excuse for carnivorousness. In fact, eating symbolized the hypocrisy of their lives; it epitomized and reinforced their sophisticated brutality. Thoreau's ideal economy was a closed and replete one, a cycle of energy that replenished itself seasonally.
In sum, Thoreau persuades readers in importance of external relations between things while Emerson is interested in internal structure. Emerson’s use of language teaches readers that most of the principles we take for granted can be rescued by redefining the key concept of "value." Shifting our system onto a new ground structure, he has subverted its aims without destroying its methods. By the language he chooses to convey his experience, Thoreau defies readers to deny that he is more economical in his mode of living than we. He demands and gets top value, and never pays more for a thing than it is worth. Philosophically, Thoreau's intention to bring only himself, tools, seeds, and a few incidentals to Walden made sense. After all, Walden was a venture in self-sufficiency, and his agriculture would have to reflect its ingenuity and simplicity.
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