Would it be grand to be a student of Henry David Thoreau? The imagery of going out in the woods with a teacher feels very appealing. All students should be so lucky.
This book has spurred various thoughts. Unfortunately I am not a literary scholar. I look forward to our discussion on Tuesday. Perhaps other members will bring insight from their readings of Emerson and Thoreau and Alcott and Margaret Fuller and Hawthorne. Cheever makes the claim on page 128 that few of the people (that quote the book) have actually read Walden.
It seems to me that Cheever portrays these authors as a bunch of misfits barely paying their bills. And the sexual mores come into question. And her accusation that one good choice for women was to just stay in bed in order to avoid bad marriage is a sad sad thought. [Page 93-quote below.] And what about her accusation that opium was over prescribed? Similar to xanax today? And at one point she makes the accusation that the Salem witch trials was a way for some power grabbers to grab the land of others. [page 43-quote below] Those witch trials shaped the politics of many? Government gone awry, eh?
Cheever talks about the civil war on pages 132 and 133. And here I think maybe I love these characters the most. I am perplexed by the civil war. Cheever offers some insight on these pages. Here is a quote from the book "....For the Alcotts, Thoreau, and Emerson, slavery was not some far off, economically questionable institution, it was the scared faces of the men and women and sometimes children they had fed and harbored and helped."
Then Cheever goes on to apparently reprimand the group of authors (except Hawthorne) for considering Capt John Brown a hero. Cheever seems to feel that they should have condemned his violence. The end doesn't justify the means. And I agree with Cheever.
Hawthorne seemed to see John Brown more clearly calling him a "blood-stained fanatic"
The thing that I didn't like about this book was that Cheever interjects some personal accounts and descriptions of what the houses and surroundings look like now. I found that made the book hard to read. Disjointed. And her interjection rarely added anything worth while. imo (of course). Except when she talked about what the book Little Women meant to her when she read it at age 10.
page 93: "Their choices often came down to being pathetic spinsters, marrying men they hated, or staying in bed being waited on."
page 43: "Another theory, and this is the one which Hawthorne fleshed out in his House of the Seven Gables, is that the trials were a land grab targeting those whose property was coveted by the judges or whose land just seemed to cry out for transfer no matter what the cost."
page 128: "...When someone says that they love the book, many times they mean that they might want a simpler life if they ever got tired of making money or going to parties....They remember a few of the aphorisms.......They haven't read the book itself and perhaps that's just as well. Thoreau is not kind to the rich or even the middle class."