Thoreau’s Appreciation for the Simple (The Bean Fields)

Through Henry David Thoreau’s description and personal narrative of his experience with, and in nature, he strongly believed that all living things have rights that humans should recognize. He had a view that we all have a responsibility to respect and care for nature, rather than (unconsciously or consciously) destroy it. Not only did Thoreau believe we should respect nature, but he also viewed humans and living things as not being separate, but equal to each other. Humans do not hold superiority over other living things but coexist equally on the Earth. In mentioning Thoreau’s perspective on nature, it is evident that his attitude towards nature was it should be respected and recognized more. He sees that humans have fallen into this trap of consumerism in that people are never content with what they have and are constantly seeking for what the latest trend or fashion is. In Thoreau’s “The Bean Field” chapter, we see that he tries to debunk this idea of consumer society by showing his interaction with working in a bean field and how one can find content in even the simplest things.

A quote from “The Bean Field” chapter that exemplifies Thoreau’s contentment with the simple things around him is “I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus” (Thoreau, 219). Through Thoreau’s time working on the bean field, he gains an appreciation for his time spent working. He depicts this through his thoroughly descriptive writing about the steps he took, the emotions he felt, and what he observed around him in the field. In the chapter, Thoreau goes to mention “…I worked barefooted, dabbling like a plastic artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, but later in the day the sun blistered my feet” (Thoreau, 220). I think Thoreau’s choice to not wear shoes not only shows his desire to find a connection with nature but also to show he wanted to distance himself from being a part of the consumer society that he saw scattered across the United States. I think through Thoreau’s choice to be barefoot, he wants the reader to understand that if we took time to be outside and fully immerse ourselves in nature-whether that be working on a field barefoot or some other way-we would see that this need for more is more psychological than what we need in reality. The last quote that alludes to Thoreau finding contentment in purely plowing bean fields is “…and sometimes the man in the field hear more travellers’ gossip and comment than was meant for his ears: ‘Beans so late! Peas so late!” -for I continued to plant when others had began to hoe,-the ministerial husbandman had not suspect it” (Thoreau, 221). Here, we see that while Thoreau takes his leisurely time planting his beans (showing an appreciation for each step), the farmer next to him has this pressure to have a quick turn over from planting to harvesting his beans. This goes back to Thoreau’s idea of people needing to respect and recognize the nature that is around them. Rather than the farmer taking a similar approach to Thoreau in planting, he has made it almost a mechanized process where the thought and appreciation for the crops are lost.

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