Reflection on "The Battle of the Ants", Henry David Thoreau
"The Battle of the Ants" is an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," a non-fictional book Thoreau wrote while living on his own in a cabin in the wilderness for 2 years during the 1840's. Thoreau chose to live this lifestyle in order to find out what really was important in life, in his words, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." In "Walden" Thoreau describes many of the scenes that he is privileged to witness, one being an epic battle between two species of ants, one a small red species, the other, black ants nearly twice the size of their opponents. In immortalizing such a trivial event in his book, Thoreau assigns great importance to it. At the same time, however, Thoreau also personifies the ants by comparing them to humans, and their battles to the battles of the ancient Greeks and Trojans. By making what is such a seemingly ridiculous comparison Thoreau shows the true disdain he has for human wars. Thoreau describes in great detail how at one point, to more closely study the battle, he takes a woodchip that held three of the ant combatants. At the end only the larger black ant was alive, having vanquished his two smaller foes, "Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the remainder of his days in some Hotel des Invalides, I do not know: but I thought that his industry would not be worth much thereafter. I never learned which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war." p.758 This shows Thoreau's view that war never has a true winner, the loser is killed and the victor walks away limping and half dead himself.
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