The Spirit of the Huckleberry: Sensuousness in Henry Thoreau

The Spirit of the Huckleberry: Sensuousness in Henry Thoreau

The Spirit of the Huckleberry: Sensuousness in Henry Thoreau

The Spirit of the Huckleberry: Sensuousness in Henry Thoreau

Synopsis

Thoreau's delight in being attuned to each sound, sight, flavour, touch and taste of nature is pervasive in his writings. Victor Friesen looks at the implications of Thoreau's sensuous approach to nature throughout his life.

Excerpt

Thoreau speaks in Walden for the "perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us" (II, 107-108). By "reality" he is not thinking of some metaphysical concept in this instance, for he says that he wishes to push past the "alluvion" (II, 108) of philosophy, as well as of religion, poetry, and politics. What he wants to do is to spend one day as deliberately as nature. He can never have enough of nature, we have already noted. "It is essential," he elucidates further in the Journal, "that a man confine himself to pursuits which lie next to and conduce to his life. . . . He will confine the observations of his mind as closely as possible to the experience or life of his senses" (XI, 16-17). For Thoreau, the reality he craves must incorporate the experience of a sensuous drenching or immersion in the natural world in which he at present is living-whether his role be passive or active, whether the place be forest or shoreline, whether the time be morning or evening, summer or winter. This opening chapter will discuss to what extent such experience pervades his life and writing.

Involvement in the natural world, Thoreau finds, can yield enjoyment for its own sake:

Men tire me when I am not constantly greeted and refreshed as by the flux of sparkling streams. Surely joy is the condition of life. Think of the young fry that leap on ponds, the myriads of insects ushered into being on a summer evening, the incessant note of the hyla with which the woods ring in the spring, the nonchalance of the butterfly carrying accident and change painted in a thousand . . .

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