Hector St. John de Crevecoeur and Ralph Waldo Emerson share a great love for nature. Although one is a farmer and the other a poet, it is clear to see that they equally respect nature, and display great compassion for it and its creatures. Crevecoeur feels that man and nature are equal and that they must work together. He also feels that American's do not respect nature the way they should. Emerson believes that man and nature are equal and that nature should not be tampered with. They felt that it should be observed and respected and that man had no place altering the course of nature. While both Crevecoeur and Emerson suggest a direct relationship between man and nature, they have varying views of what this relationship should be. Crevecoeur believes that nature is a powerful force that is both a crucial factor that helps and allows man to produce as well as a detrimental factor that is a prime cause of man's struggle. On the other hand, Emerson feels that man is nature and that to truly understand nature one must evaporate their body and absorb the world into their soul.
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur gives the reader great insight into nature and the life of animals in Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth century America. He has great respect for animals and reveals his immense compassion for them throughout the selection. He writes from a farmer's point of view, uses powerful anecdotes, and detailed observations to inform the reader about the beauty of animals and the role they play in nature and in our lives. Crevecoeur uses this work as a vehicle to drive his idea that man should respect and help nature the way that nature helps and respects man. It is obvious after reading Letters from an American Farmer that Hector St. John de Crevecoeur understands that animals help man greatly. He explains how animals "Abundantly repay" (Crevecoeur 53) him and "Are doing [his] work" (60). He even goes as far as to assert that if it were not "For [the owls] kind assistance, the mice would drive us out of our farms" (63).
He explains the importance of everything in nature. He believes that although certain parts of nature may be detrimental to human progress, there are always parts that we depend on for advancement and without them, farm life would suffer. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur does not understand why humans take advantage of and disrespect animals and nature the way they do. He explains how barbaric it is of humans to catch and kill quails during the winter when they are just harmless and hungry. Crevecoeur asks, "Are they not the children of the great Creator as well as we?" (60). He continues to assert that animals "Are entitled to live and get their food wherever they can get it" (60). It is apparent that he feels man and animals are very similar and have some of the same primal needs and desires.
He compares man to his cattle in the sense that both are conscious of superiority and that he must make sure that the strong and greedy do not take advantage of the timid and weak (54). Crevecoeur informs the readers that nature gives them so much and that they should be thankful and give back to nature instead of killing its animals and preventing them from eating and living a productive life as nature allows them to do. David M. Robinson from Oregon State University believes that Crevecoeur's depiction of American's is in attempts to thrust an idea of a utopian community upon society. He explains that Crevecoeur was trying to "Present a powerful image of what America might have become before it veered into the Industrial Age" (Robinson). He also describes Crevecoeur's values of "Familial rootedness, reverence for nature, diligent work, economic egalitarianism, and openness to those in need" (Robinson). However, it does not seem to me as though Crevecoeur was pushing towards a Utopian society. It seems that he is just urging American's to live a positive lifestyle that is helpful towards nature.
Although all of the values named by Robinson are in line with Utopian values, it is ridiculous to say that everyone who believes in these values is pushing towards a Utopian society. St. John de Crevecoeur tells the reader accounts from his own life that shows his great compassion for animals in order to set an example for Americans. He wants the reader to take into consideration the choices he makes regarding nature and for the reader, in turn, to make similar choices in his or her life. A highly reoccurring theme of nature in Letters from an American Farmer was the example of the bees, or as he at one point calls them, "Heaven's daughters" (60). It is clear that these insects were one of Crevecoeur's most respected beings in the natural world. He tells a story about how he killed a bird in order to save the bees that it had just eaten. This story in used to set a standard for the reader. It helps to show what kind of person Crevecoeur is and the way he feels about nature. Crevecoeur has immense compassion for nature and its creatures and he goes to great lengths to preserve it. He feels that just as we need to be helped by nature, nature needs to be helped by us. The topic of bees is highly reflective of these feelings. He is thankful for the bees because they "Preserve our fields from the depredation of crows" (53).Therefore, he feels he must repay them with care and respect. He shows compassion in similar anecdotes such as how he feels that it is shameful to let gluttony interfere with the beautiful change of the egg to a chicken (52).
Crevecoeur is a very compassionate man and although it is odd because he is a farmer, he feels that man should help nature the way nature helps man. While giving the reader these stories and showing them how he lives his life and how he feels about nature, he also explains how he feels about Americans and how they treat nature, he also explains how he feels about Americans and how they treat nature and what exactly they need to change. He says that just as we need someone or something to feed us, so do animals. He explains that it is up to man or nature to provide this food. He argues that "As we pay no tithes in this country, I think we should be a little more generous than we are to the brute creation" (61). He also describes the balance that is necessary between nature and man and says beautifully that "In the midst of this great, this astonishing equipoise, Man struggles and lives." (63). Nature is a powerful force that works both with and against man. It is the cause of both man's heartbreak and heartbeat and without it man could not exist.
Although he had great compassion and respect for nature, Crevecoeur also felt that occasional interference was necessary. This is because he is a farmer and knows that in order to be successful, it is often necessary to keep animals away from the crops. He talks about how he was "Often obliged to shoot these little kings of the air" (60). He also occasionally poisoned his corn to keep the blackbirds away. These are examples of man's struggle with nature. Although nature brings man great things, it is also the cause of much stress. Although Crevevcoeur had deep compassion for nature he is also a farmer. So when push comes to shove, he had to do what was best for his livelihood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, like Crevecoeur, has immense respect and compassion for nature. However, he writes from a poet's point of view rather than a farmer's. His writing is much more abstract and flowery than Crevecoeur's and he uses metaphors, personification, and detailed imagery to describe his thoughts on the relationship between humans and nature. He explains that an "Abstract truth is the most practical" (Emerson 142). It is best to describe nature in an abstract form because since much of nature is abstract and beautiful, the best way to describe nature, is through flowery, abstract language. A good way to describe the difference between the writing of Crevecoeur and that of Emerson comes from Nature he says that his writing "Distinguished the stick of timber of the wood-cutter from the tree of the poet" (143). This shows how two people can look at the same object and see two very different things. The farmer sees the stick of timber because that is what is important and relevant to his life while the poet sees the entire tree for its beauty. Crevecoeur writes about nature from a farmer's perspective while Emerson discusses it from a poet's perspective. This gives the reader a greater insight into nature being man's heartache and heartbeat. The farmer is in a constant struggle with nature while the poet sits back and observes its beauty.
While both Crevecoeur and Emerson both note a direct relationship between humans and animals, their ideas on the subject vary. Emerson believed not that humans and nature were equal, but that man is actually a part of nature. He says that nature's "Floods of life stream around and through us" (141). He also explains that the only part of a human that is not nature is the soul. Everything else belongs to nature. He describes that when he is in nature, he can "Feel the centipede in [him]" (145).When observing nature, he lets himself evaporate so that he can be as close with nature as possible. He describes that he becomes "A transparent eyeball; [he is] nothing; [he sees] all" (144). He explains that he lets himself become one with nature. He just opens his eyes and lets all of nature go into his soul. This is how he believes he can get the most out of nature and understand its beauty. Emerson was a true transcendentalist who believed that the spiritual exceeds the physical. By making himself one with nature, and seeing it from a spiritual standpoint, Emerson was able to observe nature without interfering. In fact, Joe Webb argues that "anyone aware of the most rudimentary basics of transcendental thought can recognize the harmony the philosophy seeks to achieve between man and nature. This union is important, because Emerson argues that Nature is God's miracle, and the constant magnificence of its ever-present imprint upon our eyes renders all other smaller miracles unnecessary" (Webb). By feeling as if he is a part of nature, and letting his body disappear when he is observing the natural world, he is letting nature take its course undisturbed. While Crevecoeur felt that occasional interference was necessary, Emerson believed that "Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit" (143). He did not believe that people should tamper with nature in any way. Instead, he thought that it was more important to watch it, absorb it, and be it. While Crevecoeur often related nature and man, he rarely gave nature human qualities the way that Emerson did. Emerson described how the vegetables would nod to him and pine needles would "Challenge him to read their riddle" (146). He said that the "Great mountain amphitheatre seemed to drink in with gladness" (147). These personifications contributed to the flowery and poetic writing of Emerson's work.
Just as Crevecoeur discussed man often being against nature and not respecting it, Emerson agrees with this idea:
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then there is a kind of contempt of the
landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population" (144.)
This idea has a very Romantic undertone. It speaks of emotions and pain which is a very strong characteristic of Romanticism. Both Crevecoeur and Emerson felt that nature will be good to you if you are good to it. Emerson also believed that you should learn from nature and from experiences. He felt that we should not learn by reading or going to college, but by living and learning from what is around you and from what you do.
Like Crevecoeur, Emerson had deep love and compassion for nature. He felt that it was important to "Enjoy an original relation to the universe" (141). He discussed how "Intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food" (143). Just as Crevecoeur stated that nature is constantly helping humans, Emerson explained that "Nature says, - he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me" (143). He absolutely loved nature and realized that cooperation between man and nature is imperative. He said that "The power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both" (144). He and Crevecoeur both agreed that just as nature helps man, man must help nature to create a healthy, stable world. Emerson asserts in Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson that the world is "So beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists" (148). This is a statement that Crevecoeur would certainly have agreed with. Both men had very strong feelings for nature and for its preservation. They both also believed that a balance between man and nature is crucial. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur was truly concerned with the well being of nature and its creatures and truly tried to point out American's ignorance towards it. He believes that man has no respect for nature. This is unfair because nature helps in many ways that humans take for granted every day. A quotation that basically sums up Crevecoeur's position towards Americans and nature comes from Sketches of Eighteenth century America. He felt that "If bountiful Nature is kind to us on the one hand, on the other she wills that we shall purchase her kindness not only with sweats and labour but with vigilance and care" (Crevecoeur 63). Although Emerson was equally concerned about the well being of nature and its creatures, he was more at one with nature than Crevecoeur. Crevecoeur saw nature from a practical farmer's perspective while Emerson saw it from a spiritual personal perspective. Instead of urging Americans to respect nature, he was explaining how we are nature. It was very important to him that nature be left as is and to be watched and observed. He, like Crevecoeur, believed that nature is taken advantage of. However, in Emerson's point of view, it is taken advantage of in the sense that we do not notice its beauty. Emerson feels that only children can truly appreciate nature because of their innocence. These two men, truly urge the reader to stop for a moment and look at the world around them. It is amazing how many beautiful creatures and landscapes are all around us every day that we never take the time to appreciate. According to Crevecoeur and Emerson every man is a part of nature and just as nature gives us everything we need, we must give back to nature. Both Crevecoeur and Emerson believe that man and nature have a very intimate relationship. They understand that in order to have nature on your side, you must give back to, and not tamper with nature. They also believe that nature is both the heartache and heartbeat of every man.