Chapter 17 & Conclusion
Summary – Chapter Seventeen ‘Spring’ and Conclusion
He describes a day as ‘an epitome of the year’ where ‘the night is the winter, the morning and evening are spring and fall, and noon is the summer’.
We are also told that one of the attractions of living in the woods was having ‘leisure and opportunity’ to see Spring arrive. He also relates how the ice on the pond has usually melted by the first of April. When this happens it does so ‘with a startling whoop as loud as artillery’.
He then compares parts of the body to things such as leaves and lichens and the earth is described metaphorically as a baby in swaddling clothes. He also calls it ‘living poetry’.
The movements of the animals are also referred to such as the squirrels under his house, and he also mentions the sound of birds. The geese return around this time and the pigeons could be seen.
He goes on to make his point that he believes village life would ‘stagnate’ if there were no ‘unexplored forests and meadows’ and describes these places as ‘the tonic of wildness’. He makes the point that we need to keep such unexplored areas intact. The chapter ends in May and he says how he saw the loon and other birds. He then explains that this is the end of his first year at Walden and the second one was similar. He finally left on 6 September 1847.
In the Conclusion, he argues that the universe ‘is wider than our view of it’ and goes on to criticize patriotism and calls it ‘a maggot in their heads’.
He has learned that it is possible to be successful ‘if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams’ and adds that if castles are built in the air ‘this is where they should be’ and says they now need foundations.
He asks that we love our lives and ‘even in a poorhouse’ we may find ‘pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours’. Furthermore, he prefers truth over love, money and fame.
The Conclusion concludes with a reference to the resurrection and uses a story that he says is known in New England to exemplify it. This is about a ‘strong and beautiful bug’ that came out of an old table that was over 60 years old. The egg had been deposited in the tree prior to this. He finishes with the view that the sun is ‘but a morning star’.
Analysis – Chapter Seventeen and Conclusion
It is possible to see the workings of an ecological mind when Thoreau asks that ‘the tonic of wildness’ be saved. He recognizes how humans should not continues colonizing ‘new’ land and his point is even more valid today than it was at the time of writing. This demonstrates how relevance he is to modern readers, and how right he was to strike a note of warning over 150 years ago.
The Conclusion rounds the work up with an optimistic tone that asks that we consider the concept of re-birth or resurrection, and because of this it pushes forward the idea once more that life and nature should be appreciated more fully.