Summary – Chapter Five ‘Solitude’
There is an explanation of how he had a few visitors, but not too many, and says how ‘encouraging society may be found in any natural object, even for the poor misanthrope and most melancholy man’. He thinks of himself as more favored by the Gods than other men, as he does not and did not feel lonely. He admits that for an hour he did question this after being alone for a few weeks, but when it rained he was aware of ‘such sweet and beneficent society in Nature’.
Men often said to him that they wonder he is not lonely where he lives, and he disputes this. He explains how he thinks of himself and others as ‘not wholly involved in Nature’ but is ‘a human entity’. He is aware of a sense of ‘doubleness’ and is able to be a spectator of his own experience. He also says how he loves to be alone: ‘I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.’
A comparison is made between a student and a farmer and how both work alone, but the farmer may wonder how a student can sit alone for most of the day and night. He points out that the farmer may not realize that the student is still at work in the equivalent of his field.
Thoreau then argues that we need etiquette and politeness to make our frequent meetings with each other more tolerable. He had occasional visits in the long winter evenings. One was an old settler, and he also used to visit an ‘elderly dame’ and listen to her fables. The chapter ends with a prescription of taking the morning air for our health.
Analysis – Chapter Five
The nature of loneliness is examined here and Thoreau points out that he has been lucky in not generally experiencing this feeling. He admits, however, that he has felt it, but on seeing the rain he was reminded of the sweetness of his environment. He demonstrates an ability to look beyond himself and has, as he describes, a ‘doubleness’ to his identity. This enables him to look past his immediate discomfort and become detached enough to appreciate what he sees as wonder in nature.