History: Henry David Thoreau and Progress Essay

Submitted By Gudio
Words: 827
Pages: 4

The definition of “progress” can differ drastically depending on ones outlook on things like necessities, ones goals, and ones perception of what life should entail. In this case comparing Henry David Thoreau and Harriet Noble’s views on these values, they could not differ more. After reading the background and the given situations between Thoreau and Noble with her family, it provided me with mixed emotions on what the term progress should have meant to the American people during this time. I concluded that because America is a nation that prides itself on freedom and individualism, that both views of progress cannot be regarded as wrong. Each person in this country is fulfilling their lives in unique ways, and if the process is meaningful to them, than only within can they define their personal meanings of progress. In comparing Thoreau and the Noble family, they each are in what was described as “a reality of such hardship,” but through such times they found that they became “satisfied with all the disadvantages” because it taught them to seek a new life that in the long term would be more beneficial. Mrs. Noble was a mother of two children traveling with her husband to Michigan from New York. Through her perspective, we see the struggle of what women had to face in this time period. She describes herself as feeling useless and constantly worrying about the safety of her family, going as far as not even sleeping at night in the wilderness of undiscovered America. She had much more luxury in New York, but through the popular idea of westward expansion, they sought a better life for not just themselves, but their children and the generations ahead of them. While there isn’t a direct dialogue from Mrs. Nobles husband, we can infer from the reading that he had an easier time traveling than his wife. She referred to many issues she faced such as “cooking meals in the open air” and even “ only being provided with the bare necessities of life.” Thoreau would argue just the opposite approach to how progress should be attained. He alienated himself in the wilderness in order to have the bare necessities because he believed that this was the correct way for humans to fulfill their “inner richness.” He describes in the reading “ It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life…” He preached simplicity and how our nation was being “ruined by luxury and heedless expense.” In these two situations, we can see how the necessity for progress differs to both individuals. Noble, a mother of two is striving for more luxury and opportunities for her children and family. She views progress as achieving the most out of civilized life as possible involving such aspects as going to church, and the desire to fit in with society. Thoreau intends to escape this fate and believes progress is defined in the freedom that comes with isolation. Lastly, the goals and life’s very meaning to each individual is different in order to reach a desired progress. The goal set out for the Noble family is to reach Michigan and to live a prosperous life with a…