Cape Cod

Rating: +

Henry David Thoreau

My mom gave me a copy of Cape Cod by Thoreau when I was about 13 and we were vacationing at Cape Cod. I didn't read much of it at the time since it just seemed too bland for my taste at the time. I saw it on the shelf while I was visiting my parents and read it this past week and liked it quite a bit. I'll admit off the bat I haven't read Walden, so I don't know what I should be comparing this to.

Anyway, the book is basically a recounting of three trips that Thoreau took to Cape Cod, mostly focusing on the first trip that he took when he walked along the ocean coast of a significant portion of the cape. It reads as a combination of a naturalist description of the location, a sociological description of the culture, a brief history of the cape's exploration and settling, and a bit of travel guide. These components all work together to keep it interesting. The book follows Thoreau's trip geographically, drawing from each of the categories that I mentioned to describe the current location. There was some interesting descriptions of the erosion of the Cape due to the ocean and what was being done to stop it.

The main theme, besides Cape Cod, was the Atlantic Ocean and it's effect on people. By this, I mean both the emotional effect of looking at the ocean and trying to really comprehend how big and powerful it is, and the effect the ocean has on one's life when one's livelihood depends on it and many people near to you have been killed by it. Thoreau was clearly awed by the ocean and found it inspiring. But he also pointed out that many of the people who lived there and had lost much of their family in shipwrecks weren't able to maintain the view of the ocean as majestic. Shipwrecks figured strongly in this account of the cape.

This book was quite readable, had funny points and some nice accounts of people Thoreau encountered, and gave me a feel for the culture that he was trying to describe. I don't think that having been to Cape Cod really made me enjoy this book any more, since to be honest I didn't really like it there. One thing that was lacking: my edition of the book didn't have a map in it. It would have been really nice to be able to check back to a map to remind myself of the place names that he referred back to. But, if I hadn't been so lazy, I could have found an atlas and fixed this.....


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