Summary – Chapter Six ‘Visitors’
He says how he loves society ‘as much as most’ and three chairs in his house. He has had from 25 to 30 people in his home at once and uses this point to question the necessity of having large homes. One inconvenience is noted, though, as he would have liked more room for his guests’ thoughts to be heard. He explains that his ‘best room’ was the pine wood behind his house.
His company was ‘winnowed’ by the distance of the house from town and gives examples of the good company he had, such as an unnamed Canadian man who was ‘a woodchopper and post-maker’. He knew of Homer and asked Thoreau to translate Achilles’ report to Patroclus. This man was aged about 28 then and is described as such: ‘A more simple and natural man it would be hard to find.’ At this point he had lived and worked in the United States for 12 years and was trying to earn enough to buy a farm. He was of interest to Thoreau because he was ‘so quiet and solitary and so happy withal’. He was also humble and never exchanged opinions and Thoreau was not sure ‘whether he was as Shakespeare or as simply ignorant as a child’.
Thoreau then refers to other visitors such as some that came from the almshouse, and others who came from town who were not considered poor but came for charity. Runaway slaves also passed through his home and he lists others such as ‘the old, infirm and the timid’ that saw danger everywhere. Finally, he complains of the ‘self-styled reformers’ who he calls ‘the greatest bores of all’ but adds he also had ‘cheering visitors’ and describes these as ‘honest pilgrims’.
Analysis – Chapter Six
Following on from the previous chapter which was concerned with solitude, this one acts as a counterbalance and reiterates how he too also likes the company of society.
His references to the ‘Canadian’, who remains unnamed, are of interest as this is one of the few other characters in the narrative and even he is barely fleshed out. His appearance demonstrates Thoreau’s willingness to engage with a fellow human being, but he is only mentioned fleetingly and then it is to show that he did interact with society at various times.