Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thoreau, A Week, Day #3 (Wednesday)

Much of this "day" is focused upon the topic of friendship, clearly relevant to Thoreau's relationship with his brother/travel-companion but also much more broadly applicable to his relations with all people and clearly central to the development of a personal philosophy. Respond to any, but not all of these questions.

--What does Thoreau seek from his friends and what does he offer through his friendship?

--At times his vision of friendship seems remarkably intimate (perhaps more closely related to what we might now call love) and yet he also suggests that one need not even speak with the friend: how do reconcile this seeming contradiction?

--Last class, we had Poe's seemingly phobic depiction of the city as a space where one was never alone and yet never truly connected to anyone else. How does Thoreau envision the countryside as the place of friendship?

--Compare your own vision of friendship with that of Thoreau? In what ways do you envision the relation as different and to what extent do you think the different spaces of contemporary life might have affected these differences?


  1. My own vision of friendship is similar, yet in a few major ways different from Thoreau's. Like Thoreau, I do think that friendship involves love and a heightened level of intimacy at times. Also, a friend is someone that you appreciate and accept for who they are, their faults being aspects they are endured for. I also agree that friends should not be used or taken advantage of for your own benefit. However, I do not agree with Thoreau's assumption that friendships cannot be long-lasting or lifelong. In contemporary life, we have numerous ways of staying in touch with friends who are far away, with easier methods of communication and transportation. I have friendships that will very likely be lifelong. I also do not agree with Thoreau's notion that one should be reserved around a friend. On the contrary, I think a friend is someone that you should never feel the need to be reserved around, but have the ability to express openly your uncensored emotions and thoughts, which necessitates a certain level of trust and confidence. This builds over time, thus the necessity of a long-term relationship.

  2. I think Thoreau seeks inspiration and eternal kinship in his friends. He writes that his friend (his brother) was the "flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone" and I think that really classifies how cherished his relationship with his brother truly was, as well as how important and intimate friendships were to him, and are in our lives.

    He writes on page 217 that "friendship takes place between those that have an affinity for one another, and is a perfectly natural and inevitable result." He also seems to find joy in the simple pleasures of friendship. He writes that speech isn't necessarily important when with a friend, which reminded me of a line from the film Pulp Fiction when Uma Thurman's character says she finds joy in being able to just sit with someone, shut up for a minute, and enjoy the silence. Throughout the novel, we know that Thoreau is with his brother whom he loved, but we don't get a huge characterization of him. Reading "Wednesday," I sort of thought this could be a result of how Thoreau regards friendship as very intimate, as well as the notion that maybe they just didn't do a whole lot of talking.

    I think Thoreau's views of friendship are similar to most people, or at least most who have had friends they truly loved. It's also easy to see that in working out the ways of friendship, Thoreau is dealing with the death of his brother.

  3. Thoreau's view of friendship is wide ranging. He speaks of friends not having to talk to each other, but then also states that friends should share this intimate bond. I think that Thoreau was discussing the different kinds of friendship that a person can experience in their life. There is the friendship that one can have with a coworker or colleague, which is based on just having that job in common. The friendship with people you only meet once and never see again is another level that Thoreau discusses. Then there are the friends that you can be your complete self with, the more intimate form friendship. Thoreau's vision or definition of friendship is very broad, but in his descriptions he sets the standards for each type of friendship ranging from mere acquaintences to "bosom" buddies. So technically there is no contridiction in his outlook on friendship but different levels on which friendship can exist between people.

  4. Like a lot of Thoreau’s writings, he is very open and very general about his experiences. In my opinion, his idea of friendship is quite accurate, especially the part about friendships not being life long or long lasting. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you cannot have one person as a friend your whole life, but it is highly unlikely that a friendship stays the same throughout your entire life. Everyone is an individual who grows and matures as do their friends. I do not have the same relationship I once had with any of my friends, but they are still my friends. Everything else Thoreau mentions seems a bit general. The intimacy part is a give and I think Thoreau just needed to clarify the basics so I do not condemn him in that respect, but one part I appreciated was the idea that you do not take advantage of friendships. All too often do I see people riding alongside others for personal gain, which is never a healthy endeavor. The problem nowadays is that people are not always aware they are doing it. Hanging out with a good looking guy to hang around good looking girls. Talking to people that do well in class in hopes that they may lend you a hand in the future. One’s intentions may not be malicious, but they are rooted in good intentions. Though Thoreau gives the reader a lot of which the reader may already know, and this may be seen as boring, Thoreau does a good job reminding the reader how one should act in a friendship and how they can tell if a friendship is going well. I enjoyed the post that mentioned Pulp Fiction and it is something that I always thought was very true. Thoreau spent a lot of time with his brother, somebody that is a dear friend and that he loves dearly, however it does not seem that much talking was done. They could just enjoy the proximity of one another and they didn’t feel like they needed to be constantly the one to entertain. A friendship is where you have no need to hide yourself. Now the one thing that I will say that will contradict some of what I have said. On one hand , Thoreau does such a good job looking for how life should be and having such a good grasp on what I would consider a more modern philosophy, but where the man loses me is how ideal and romantic he is. The man needs a grasp on reality.

  5. First of all I like the last line of what Scott said a lot. I've been thinking that for a lot of this book but I digress. I think it is fairly easy to reconcile what Thoreau says about intimacy and also not having to speak to a friend. In my experience I've found that often it is with those whom we are closest that we find no need for words. communicatiopn in a friendship is obviously important and the fact that two people find it easy to communicate is often a big part of them being friends in the first place. But there are times when communication breaks down into two people who are uncomfortable making noise at each other. I often find that when I'm around new people I feel like I have to talk or my heart will explode from being nervous. When I'm around my close friends this is not the case. Yes' very often we are talking, laughing, and making jokes, but I'm also comfortable enough with them that it's not necessary. We can sit and not say anything without feeling any awkwardness. It may not be easy for some people to see but, at least in my opinion, this is a very underrated ability. I can imagine Thoreau and his brother floating down the river without any chatter or interruptions in experiencing the things around them because tey are close enough to know that they don't need words. They can just sit back and take in the experience together.

  6. I am kind of indifferent with the way Thoreau feels about friendship and the way I view friendship. I feel like throughout the reading he becomes extremely intimate with the way he describes it and then in other parts he believes that true friendship cannot exist. I think Thoreau looks at friendship the way he looks at nature and progression, when he speaks about the past and the way friendship ought to be he is extremely compassionate and then when he speaks about the future, he doesn't believe in the true friendship. On page 211, you can see Thoreau giving a detailed description about friendship and comparing it to nature and how noticing one small thing can take you back to an old memory of friendship but on the next page, he begins to describe friendship as a "tragedy". I feel that Thoreau has animosity towards friendship and maybe its because he is looking back on a trip he took with his brother and now his brother is no longer here but I do feel he is angry towards something. I think Thoreau is very romantic in the way he writes about friendship but I don't think i can take anything from it because he becomes so hostile at some parts but when he does speak about friendship and how he admires it, I do agree with most of the things he says, its when he becomes negative that I disagree with him.

  7. Although he jumps around a bit with his description of friendship, Thoreau's view on friendship is similar to mine. I particularly took notice to how he related notice to that of something from God on p. 217, stating "Know the contrariety of foe and Friend proceeds from God" I wasn't sure exactly the point he was trying to convey as in the sentences before and after, he talks about the way books refer to friends, and how what comes of friendship as pertains to speech and emotional connection. Was he trying to make a biblical reference in the light of friendship? I agree with Thoreau's view of friendship on the levels of affection and intimacy, but due to his choppy views of religion already, I'm still surprised at his views of friendship being portrayed sort of as a gift or reflection of God or "Heaven for us" (p. 216).

  8. I just wanted to comment real quick replying to amanda's post on Thoreau's idea of friendship, as well as several other's ideas in the class.

    I completely agree in that Thoreau is very accurate with the idea of friendship. Many friendships between two people, even in today's society, are great because they can sense how the other one feels. The idea of silence as a great bonding moment between two people (friends), in my opinion, is very accurate.


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