The Wonder of Transcendentalism

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In Economy, Thoreau discusses not only the practical aspects of a man’s life but also his spiritual nature. In the passage, “”One day…”” he uses the comparison of the striped snake to remind man’s current degradation, while simultaneously allowing hope for an ultimate spiritual awakening. It is fascinating to note that the animal he chooses is a snake, hinting at the form assumed by Satan when he duped Eve in the Book of Genesis.

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In the Bible, the snake represented man’s most massive downfall: the quest for knowledge that led to the creation of modern civilization. In Thoreau’s metaphor, the snake seems to portray man’s state since his separation from the Garden of Eden ” asleep, languid, and not conscious of the potential to find inspiration and simplicity in Nature.

Thoreau refers to this state as low and primitive, even though it is a result of man’s modern society and the work economy of America at the time of Thoreau’s writing. Although many would view this society to be refined and advanced, Thoreau sees it as backward: man should entirely work for himself, not for others, and he should spend the time that he is not working in hunt of independent thought and spiritual betterment, not in wasting one’s money on the freshest fashions or richness.

A man who has not transcended the materiality of the world is thus considered to be torpid, sluggish and bogged down in conventions. The solution is for such men to experience the spring of springs. Here, he calls attention to the season often thought of as a point of awakening, concerning the flowers that bloom during the spring months. Moreover, the spring represents rising oneself in Nature or, at least, in the solitude and reflection that transcendentalists found in natural settings.

Although Thoreau upholds going one’s own way, he draws on these traditional concepts of spring as a time of life. When a man leaves behind his materialism, he wakes to this higher world of self-realization, critical thinking, and spiritual goodness partaken by all humans at their core. Although Thoreau’s tone can sometimes be rough and jarring, it is sometimes also artistic, with vivid imagery and prompts at the lessons that man can learn if only he can shake off his satisfaction and view the world from a different perspective, like a snake shedding its old skin for something new.

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