Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Thoreau/American perspective lens


Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through more ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (Thoreau 6) in his novel, Walden. 

To me this quote from Walden is basically meaning that most people waste their freedom of expression and thought because they don’t know any better. They put too much time into artificial and unnecessary pursuits, and because of this they don’t get to enjoy the genuine and good things life has to offer.

Henry David Thoreau is an American Transedentalist. He believed heavily in going out into Nature and finding oneself out in Nature herself. To stop with all of the hustle and bustle of what will later be huge, over populated cities in America. In the 19th century, what they would call hustle and bustle, was maybe a few neighbors living a few miles from each other. Thoreau not only challenges people to get out of their homes and out into Nature, but also challenges to read and write all the time. He is huge into Education, after all he did go to Harvard.

He was a lecture based kind of guy, and here in this century, we like discussion in our classrooms. He would argue that this is incorrect. He was raised in American, just in a completely different time period that us. So what happened to Education. He would hate what are doing now in schools, as I sit here and voice my opinion/thoughts onto a COMPUTER screen. He would literally scream and wonder what happened to our Education, just like Ifemelu does. He often writes about how American’s have always said phrases such as, “America used to be such a great place back then”, or “America used to be such a better place” etcetera etcetera. He would argue that those comments will never go away, that even people who first came to America would say these things, of course he is being a little over exaggerative, but we get the gist.

Why did this all change in America? Why are we so heavily based, or monitored by class participation as a grade? Why are we not out in Nature, discovering Literature and our own interpretation of things, rather than finding them ourselves?

We as American’s often just sit and wait for the answers to be handed to us, and not go out and fight for ourselves. One could argue that Ifemelu is not the bump on the log type. She has been aggressively looking for jobs, and how to better herself as a new American…

I love this novel, Americanah, because as an Education major, it is teaching me not only about a Nigerian culture, in case I have a student in my future who is Nigerian and I can possibly connect with more upon reading this novel, but it also teaches me how to not always be that teacher or coach that teaches the same way over and over and over again. To switch it up through another perspective and lens.


2 thoughts on “Thoreau/American perspective lens

  1. When I was small, the teachers told us that, in the future, most schools would stop using so much paper and classes would be held outside instead of in small classrooms. They were right about the first part, even though they were thinking more ‘environmentally friendly paper substitute’ as opposed to ‘computer screen’. The point is, back when I was a tidbit of a thing, people thought ‘school should be more connected to nature’. And when Thoreau was a tidbit of a thing, people thought ‘school should be more connected to nature’. So, why have we moved farther from that goal over time instead of closer? I’m not sure, but I do agree that Thoreau would literally scream if he saw the internet.

  2. Haha! I love it! Maybe this is why we (as a class) keep trying to persuade Hoffpauir to have class outside! I actually, aside from this class, heard a fellow classmate wish for class outside. I mean we live in Texas, we have good weather sometimes! Let’s do this.

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