John Muir’s “The Wilderness Journeys” drove home his opinion of the benefits of becoming closer to nature. His paper exemplified his thoughts on close human contact with the natural world in his descriptions of his journeys, and with this closeness a sense of acceptance of all parts of life, including death. His narrative sought not to scold modern civilization on their detachment from nature, but to open one’s eyes on the physical and mental health benefits living in nature can bring. Muir succeeded in luring the reader in to the idea that nothing is more absolute or rewarding than becoming one with nature.
The next article by Thoreau, ”Walking,” had the same overarching theme that humans belong in nature, and this is where we can ultimately find peace with life and death as a part of life. However Thoreau had more an air of pretension in his writing, condemning those who chose to detach themselves from the natural world in exchange for the comforts of modern society. “It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one.” This type of narrow-minded way of thinking tends to alienate readers who differ in opinion, and makes readers less responsive to the message being given. This opinion differs greatly from Muir’s “The Wilderness Journeys, in the sense that Thoreau comes off as more self-righteous in his views, which deters people from remaining opened minded about the opinions he puts forth. This is in opposition of Muir’s article, which seeks mainly to articulate his personal experience with peace in nature.
“Desert Solitaire, Down the River,” comes at the subject of human/nature contact in a different tone from the above two articles. This article has more of an agenda, in the sense that it is trying to persuade the audience against the destruction from tourism of scenic areas across the country. The author of this article also speaks of nature in a way that is detached from God or any supreme figure, encouraging readers to explore and appreciate nature on its own, and not in relation to God. This is in contrast to Muir’s “The Wilderness Journey,” which speaks constantly of God’s presence in nature when describing scenes of exceptional beauty. The two articles write for similar purposes, to relay to the reader the joys of their personal experiences with nature. However “Desert Solitaire” connects to nature without the assistance of another entity such as God or a supreme figure, but purely from a human perspective.
Thoreau’s “Where I lived and what I lived for,” had a distinctly different tone than his first article. While keeping the same theme of nature and solitude, he describes more the feelings of peace and tranquility associated with living in nature. One thing that most of the articles touch on, especially in this one, is the idea that children have the greatest understanding of true happiness in life. “Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men,z who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.” This theme pops up in a few of the other articles, but is highlighted especially in “Where I lived and What I lived for.”
The last article, Muir’s “Hetch Hetch Valley,” has the clear and deliberate purpose of trying to dissuade the general public from supporting the damming of what he considers one of the most beautiful valleys in Yosemite National Park. He explores the natural beauty of the area, hoping to arouse the reader into becoming as attached to the natural wonder as he has become. While he writes with an agenda similar to the style of the article “Desert Solitaire, Down the River,” this article is more aggressive, and condemns those who seek to destroy what he considers uniquely beautiful sceneries for the sake of a man-made creation such as a dam to provide electricity.