4.28.2008

True Character
Thoreau's Journal: 28-Apr-1841

We falsely attribute to men a determined character; putting together all their yesterdays and averaging them, we presume we know them. Pity the man who has a character to support. It is worse than a large family. He is silent poor indeed. But in fact character is never explored, nor does it get developed in time, but eternity is its development, time its envelope. In view of this distinction, a sort of divine politeness and heavenly good breeding suggests itself, to address always the enveloped character of a man. I approach a great nature with infinite expectation and uncertainty, not knowing what I may meet. It lies as broad and unexplored before me as a scraggy hillside or pasture. I may hear a fox bark, or a partridge drum, or some bird new to these localities may fly up.

3 comments:

Devin Holewinski said...

Thoreau directly and indirectly commented on society's too high of expectations for individuals in society. This comment explores that by saying that a person's character is always developing, yet many expect them to have one of distinction early on.

Thoreau's practical solution to this miscalculation is to approach people and even life itself with the uncertainty it merrits.

Elizabeth Vance said...

It's interesting to see this passage after reading Walden. After so much inner explorartion, it's refreshing to see Thoreau notice other people. It's even more interesting because he seems to be saying that people can't develope character unless others perceive the characteristics there.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, did we read the same Walden? HDT comments on his fellow humans all the time. He always remarks on one person or another in many of his works. HDT is constantly aware of his fellow man, even if it is mainly their faults, but he knows what better natures we could all have if we threw off the shackles of society.