Nature’s Umbrella

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

After reading the posts of my peers, I’ve found that almost all of them have discussed the role that kids have in connecting to other concepts such as classes, like in Keegan’s post, or adults.  Although they were all very interesting, I also feel that nature can serve the same purpose.  In my map, I intersected nature with kids.

The relationship between nature and kids is almost one-sided in my opinion.  Kids benefit from the “freedom” that they experience in the outdoors away from adults, classrooms, and other societal distractions.  But while they are outside experiencing nature firsthand, the latter really does not benefit at all.  Nature is simply a kid’s dream playground.  Without the limiting, seemingly dulling presence of society, kids use their imaginations outdoors, as demonstrated by Tom, Joe, and Huckleberry during their adventure away from home, to allow their wildest dreams to come true.  Unfortunately, there are no “high profile” examples of children exploiting the freedom of nature in their pursuits of happiness.  However, consider how it is common to see young children pretending to be pirates, cowboys, soldiers, and much more while they are outdoors away from hindrances such as school, which Justin mentioned in his blog.

However, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is just one of many novels written describing the imaginations of children out in nature.  Consider Bridge to Terabithia, another novel following the adventures of a boy and a girl as they conquer nature in their minds together. Ultimately, nature is a fundamental part of any individual’s childhood, as it allows him or her to experience true, natural freedom, if only for a limited amount of time.

I would also like to add that the relationship is fraught with hidden tension. Although nature can exist without the presence of children, children as we know them today, cannot reciprocate this relationship. Although it is not evident at first, if nature were indeed taken away from children, the courses of their lives would be totally different than the way they are today. Children as we know them today with their wild imaginations will be changed. In what way is hard to tell, but I hope we never find out.  Unforunately, as Flannery mentioned, the “frontier” aspect of nature (wilderness, the west, untamed nature) is slowly disappearing as we progress  through this technological age.  The looming shadoews of the Rocky mountains are being replaced by skyscrapes many stories high.  Humans have effectively “ruined” nature by influencing its ties with our own artificial creations.

The Man Behind the Legend

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain, is one of the most prolific authors in American history, but if you asked Americans about his life outside of his writings, most of them would probably not know much at all.  Upon reading many of the other posts already written, especially Matthew’s post, that all effectively analyze and summarize the life of Mark Twain, I got to looking for the some of the more specific, finer connections that exist in Clemens’ works, and eventually I stumbled across some extraordinary things.

Using this site, I discovered the origins of not only Twain himself, but also Huckleberry Finn and Becky Thatcher.  It’s incredible to see the very households that inspired the legendary characters of some of Twain’s most famous works, with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer being one of them.  After reading other posts, one of which being Tom Sawyer: An Autobiography?, the connections between Twain’s own life and the contents of his works were stronger than ever.  This is aptly demonstrated by the recent discovery (just months ago) of an unpublished manuscript, titled A Family Sketch.  Written by Clements following the death of his daughter Olivia Susan Clemens, or Susy, who was 24 at the time, this unpublished manuscript is a perfect, and certainly not the only, example of how Clements bonded occurrences in his own life to his writing.  The manuscript was 64 pages long and “goes beyond Twain’s portrayal of his beloved daughter and gives other details of their family life.” The author of the news article, Ed Pilkington, also perfectly captures Twain’s portrayals of his family in his literature later in the article when he writes that author “Laura Skandera Trombley describes Susy as her father’s second muse following his wife Olivia. She is considered the inspiration for the novel Joan of Arc and a story, A Horse’s Tale.” Susy also followed in the footsteps of her father, as at the tender age of “13, she wrote a biography of her father, which was published as Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain.”

These articles and writings have been very informative and eye opening.  After examining not only my classmates’ research but also my own, I now realize how much a reader can learn about Clements from just his literary works alone: he has instilled his most private thoughts and life events into his novels.  By doing that, his life story and his mind will live forever.

A Tale of Two Boys

August 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

In this passage, Mark Twain sheds light upon his view of the relationship between humans and nature, communicating the idea that we tend to constantly attempt to wrap our authoritarian grasp around the latter.  When Tom’s hand first “wandered into his pocket…his face lit up with a glow of gratitude” (53) as he finds the tick he had earlier trapped in a jar, and his initial reaction demonstrates to us the pleasure that he takes out of assuming a masterful position over the tick.  As the creature “glowed with gratitude that amounted to prayer…Tom turned him aside with a pin, and made him take a new direction,” (53) and this reveals the pecking order in St. Petersburg: young boys have complete control over any animals they can take control of and keep captive.  Twain later writes that “Joe took a pin out of his lapel, and began to assist in exercising the prisoner,” (54) and the author’s word choice aptly reinforces the idea that the tick is simply a hostage subject to the whims of the two boys’ arbitrary urges.  Twain continues, writing that neither Mark nor Joe were “getting the fullest benefit of the tick,” (54) and the author here indirectly sheds light upon the rules manifested in interactions between humans and nature: as long as both parties do not bring physical harm to the other, relations will remain good-natured and playful for the human alone.  From Tom’s perspective, animals like this tick do count as nature in his world, as Tom constantly attempts to control these smaller animals true to the general relationship between humans and nature.  Eventually, the two boys begin to argue over who gets to abuse the insect, and Tom finally says that “he’s [his] tick, and [he’ll] do what [he] blame please with him” (55) to assert his domineering position over not only Joe but also, and most importantly, the tick itself.  Twain, with careful word choice, effectively transmits to the reader his idea of the primal, everlasting human endeavor to control nature.

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