Can Solitude and Companionship Coincide?

In Visitors, Thoreau challenges the idea that physical state of solitude cannot coexist with companionship. Expressing a desire for social contact, Thoreau shares that he has designated “three chairs in [his] house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society” (Thoreau, 208). Thoreau suggests that he wants to have company despite his longing to be in solitude which required removing himself from society. Alternatively, guests seem drawn to fulfill the role of companionship that Thoreau craves. He even adds that “when visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up” (Thoreau, 208). Thoreau strategically claims that a state of solitude and companionship can indeed peacefully coexist by placing these chairs within the walls of his small cabin. However, he argues that there is a particular ratio of voice volume to distance in which they can work together. He states that “loquacious” speakers should be in close proximity to each other while those who “speak reservedly and thoughtfully” should stand at a distance where “all animal heat and moisture may have a chance to evaporate” (Thoreau, 209).

Thoreau’s philosophy for solitude and companionship is “you want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port” (Thoreau, 209). In other words, thoughts demand a state of solitude just like humans before a conversation could arise; Thoreau states that thoughts need a “steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer” and humans needing time for silence before they receive a message.

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