"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep . . . but I have promises to keep." --  Robert Frost

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep . . . but I have promises to keep.” — Robert Frost

I believe that the history of the term, wilderness, and the emotions associated with it are very diverse. They vary from person to person and the age in which the term was used. The definitions have ranged from an angelic, untouched area that we need to preserve (heaven-like); to a desolate, wasteland characterized by terror and bewilderment. The relationship between history and wilderness is that through the ages various figures, texts, and movements have swayed the public’s opinions about wilderness. However, the trend seems to be that as time elapsed the wilderness became more and more appealing. For example, the bible referred to wilderness as dangerous and the opposite of civilization, or used to isolate those who sinned. Similar to biblical views were those of the 18th century in which wilderness was viewed as sublime, or grand, but it was also to be feared because we as humans are not capable of doing grand things or explaining the incomprehensible that is nature. This sparked the romantic quality in wilderness. Later, Thoreau and Muir ran with the idea of wilderness’s beauty then set out to defend it. Thus began the early conservation movements in the 19th century. Lastly, rugged individualism arose in the late 19th century and the idea of the wilderness being a place of freedom or hyper-masculinity consumed the public. Still the wilderness retained an emptiness though all through the eras, which is still used to describe wilderness today.

Overall, Cronon’s account of the history of wilderness makes his argument very valid. He presents different issues such as the presence of people in the wilderness and the preservation of endangered species in multiple points of view to appeal to nearly everyone reading his argument. This method reflects upon the different views of wilderness through the ages. He achieves this by making the reader think deeply about the wilderness through the use of the paradoxes. For example, he expresses the idea that wilderness is natural because it is where humans do not dwell, but if we go there it becomes unnatural. Along with this he says that wilderness is not natural, but rather man-made because we created it by isolating ourselves from it.  By making the reader think about the paradoxes he presents it ensures that the reader has their own perspective on wilderness instead of being swayed by the movements of today.

Works Cited

Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Saving Place Ed. Sidney I. Dobrin.

Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005. Print.

One thought on “Wilderness Throughout the Ages

  1. i liked the article it was interesting to read but i did not agree with the line that says that the wilderness is unnatural and actually man made. That to me just does not make sense.

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