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To live deliberately or to conquer an island of despair: A comparative analysis of the depictions of man's relationship with nature in Walden and Robinson Crusoe as grounded in the works' protagonists
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Humanities.
2007 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay researches how the literary personae H. D. Thoreau and Robinson Crusoe develop during and by their respective sojourns in nature as evinced in Walden and Robinson Crusoe. Thoreau and Crusoe come to spend time in nature for different reasons but since they both face similar challenges the two narratives are comparable.

The objective is to analyse how the protagonists view nature and what impact their closeness to nature has in terms of their expressed thoughts, actions and emotional life. The approach consists of a comparative and contrastive close reading of the narratives so as to disclose the most important moments, events and thoughts forwarded in the respective texts for later analysis. What is stated or implied in the narratives are thus interpreted as the genuine views and reactions of the protagonists and hence analysed as such. Moreover the close reading is informed by both psychoanalytical literary theory and ecocritical theory.

The approach is thematic and concentrates on several themes or challenges both Thoreau and Crusoe encounter during their habitation in nature. This division of the narratives makes it easier to isolate the moments and events that are the most relevant to the protagonists as regards their views of nature and their development while living in it.

During his stay at Walden Pond Thoreau does not just preoccupy himself with the practical challenges a life in nature poses but also to a large degree the philosophical questions those challenges raise in him. Thoreau comes to discover an interconnectedness between man and nature which depends on the willingness to simplify life, rid oneself of the act of consumerism and really devote oneself to attending to one’s surroundings. Crusoe, for his part, is terrified by the unknown environment and possible threats it poses to him but decides to survive and does so by making sure his basic needs of shelter and food as well as his dream of becoming a wealthy colonial master are met.

The aims of this study are to examine how the two protagonists view nature and how and in what ways their respective stays in nature change them. They both clearly develop throughout the narratives and return to civilization with greater inner abilities and strengths than before. Thoreau, for instance, keeps and deepens his feeling of interconnectedness with nature during his stay at Walden Pond while Crusoe’s perceived dislike of nature is mitigated when he understands how to make it useful to his cause. The time they spend in nature allows the protagonists to think about, and perhaps revise their attitudes towards it and find ways to incorporate nature, and what they have learned while living in it in their lives and mindsets.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. , p. 38
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URN: urn:nbn:se:vxu:diva-1363OAI: oai:DiVA.org:vxu-1363DiVA, id: diva2:205170
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humaniora/teologi
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Available from: 2007-06-14 Created: 2007-06-14 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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