Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comparison Contrast Essay

Theresa L. Leonard
English 101: Creative Writing
Dr. Jim Hepworth
April 9th 2009
Two True Men of Nature: A Comparison Essay
Nature and wilderness are two things many humans do not understand anymore. Many people think you can drive a couple hours and be in wilderness. This is neither nature nor wilderness. Being able to hike five miles where vehicles have never been and rarely a human soul is the true being of nature. In my opinion, both William Stegner and Henry David Thoreau have both come to know what nature and wilderness truly is. While Stegner is more about the preservation of wilderness and Thoreau is concerned about people as a being forgetting their true roots, they both have the same ideas.
“We are a wild species, as Darwin pointed out. Nobody ever tamed or domesticated or scientifically bred us.”(2) Stegner writes. He goes on saying, “But for at least three millennia we have been engaged in a cumulative and ambitious race to modify and gain control of our environment, and in the process we have come close to domesticating ourselves. Not many people are likely, any more, to look upon what we call “progress” as an unmixed blessing.”
Too many humans have not seen wilderness and do not know where they come from. Many of these people could already be domesticated. People are told what to do and they do it. People go to their jobs everyday because we are trained to do it, and if we do not, there are consequences. There is nothing wrong with going to work day after day, but we must remember our roots every once and awhile and go get lost in wilderness.
Thoreau tells us, “I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights – any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and vigor;” (15) If more people would realize we are not anything more than a wild animal, and we need to let that show a little more, just maybe we would be able to stop this “race” to be completely domesticated.
The progress we are making every day is not good for us or the wilderness.
Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirt the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste, (1) Stegner explains.
Without preservation of our wilderness, it’s very likely we will never see wilderness or nature again. Our wilderness is turning into new cities and big department stores are taking over the last few acres of our beautiful land. Without wilderness, we will not be able to have the same experiences of our founding fathers that formed this country. It’s very unlikely if we do not preserve wilderness, will we be able to sit in the peaceful nature and hear nothing besides the birds singing, the creek babbling, and the wind blowing.
“To preserve wild animals, implies generally the creation of a forest for them to dwell in or resort to. So is it with man.” Thoreau goes on, “Ah! Already I shudder for these comparatively degenerate days of my native village, when you cannot collect a load of bark of good thickness—and we no longer produce tar and turpentine.” Without preservation, we are not going to be able to produce new products. Our country needs to decide to recycle a lot more if we are not going to preserve more land.
The biggest difference between Thoreau and Stegner is one hundred years. Thoreau lived in the 1800’s and Stegner the 20th century. Thoreau wished “to speak a word for nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and Culture merely civil,--to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.” (1) He believed more in us losing touch with our wild beings. Stegner believed more in preservation. “If I may, I should like to urge some arguments for wilderness preservation that involve recreation, as it is ordinarily conceived, hardly at all.”
“Let me say something on the subject of the kinds of wilderness worth preserving. Most of those areas contemplated are in the national forests and in high mountain country.” (3) Stegner is not only concerned about earth that will probably never be touched by “the stink of humans.” But he also believes there could be a second chance for the land that has been touched.
“I am not moved by the argument that those wilderness areas which have already been exposed to grazing or mining are already deflowered, and so might as well be ‘harvested’.” (2) Stegner goes on to say, “Better a wounded forest than none at all.” He knows that the earth will not heal quickly, that it will take time. But if people start preserving our land, it can be healed. Thoreau is about getting in touch with your inner self. It is about knowing how to “take a walk.” Thoreau explains, “My vicinity affords many good walks, and though I have walked almost every day for so many years, and sometimes for several days together, I have not yet exhausted them.” (3) He knows how to lose himself and he is happy about that. “When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle south-west, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction.”
He does not have a specific place where he heads; he just ends up where he ends up. He knows how to let himself be one with Wildness. Walking is probably one of the things that keep him sane. “How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do not stand it at all.” (2) Confinement is not an option for him.
William Stegner and Henry David Thoreau have a lot of points in common like the preservation of our wilderness, but also have some different ones as in Stegner with a heart for land already wounded, but believe there is still potential, and Thoreau who lives for “walking.” These two were brilliant men who cared a lot about wilderness and nature. They both believed we are becoming domesticated, that we have lost ourselves, and we need to do something about it. If not, we are going to lose all that will ever matter to us.

Works Cited

Stegner, Wallace. “Wilderness Letter” The Wilderness Society 3 December 1960. 26 Feb 2009 .<http://www.wilderness.org/content/wilderness-letter>.
Thoreau, Henry David. “Walking” The Thoreau Reader 23 April 1851. 10 March 2009

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