A Loss of Innocence in Wordsworth's "Nutting"
A romantic poet, William Wordsworth examines the relationship between the individual and nature. In the poem "Nutting," Wordsworth focuses on the role that innocence plays in this relationship as he describes a scene that leads to his own coming of age. Unlike many of his other poems, which reveal the ability to experience and access nature in an innocent state, "Nutting" depicts Wordsworth's inability as a young boy to fully appreciate nature, causing him to destroy it. Addressing a young girl, most likely his sister, he writes to poem as a warning of what happens within oneself when one does not fully appreciate nature. In his youth, the speaker is too excited by duty and too tempted by the wealth that nature holds to control his desire to destroy it. His defilement of nature's innocence, however, immediately disturbs him, causing him to question the value of material wealth and to realize the importance of nature, something that the speaker in the present now recognizes and shows in his interjections throughout the poem.
Told to collect hazelnuts in the forest by the woman he works for, the young speaker enthusiastically sets out to fulfill his duty. Revealing the child's innocence, the speaker says he leaves his house "in the eagerness of boyish hope
sallying forth" (4-5). The word "eagerness" reveals his excitement for the approaching task, while the phrase "boyish hope" emphasizes his young age and the purity of his "eagerness." "Sallying" adds an element of lightheartedness to the youthful image. Yet the boy does not embark on some random excursion, but leaves "with a huge wallet o'er my shoulder slung, a nutting-crook in hand" (6-7). The youth goes to collect hazelnuts from the forest, not to enjoy nature, but out of greed, suggested by the use of the word "wallet," which implies money and the material wealth that the boy wishes to gain. As he heads into the forest, the speaker describes himself as "tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds" to help with his task (9). Although dressed in "cast-off weeds," a costume made of someone's garbage, the boy is "proud" to wear them, showing his delight in his task.
When the boy reaches his chosen hazelnut tree, the innocence of nature further provokes him and adds to his desire to reap nature's hidden treasure that his duty already caused. When he gets to the spot, the speaker describes it as "one dear nook, unvisited, where not a broken bough drooped with its withered leaves" (16-18). The word "unvisited" reveals the purity of the scene, an image that is heightened by the lack of a "broken bough" and "withered leaves," pointing to the vibrancy of the small area. In contrast, "the hazels rose tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung, a virgin scene!" (19-21). The usage of "tall and erect" addresses the word "drooped" from the previous image and further emphasizes this vibrancy. The phrase "tempting clusters hung" reveals the boy's desire to collect the hazelnuts. This craving to strip nature of its fruit is shown in the exclamation "a virgin scene!". "Virgin" evokes the innocence of the scene, while the sexual nature of the word suggests that the boy sees nature as something he has the power to corrupt, a prospect which excites and entices him, shown by the exclamation point. This idea that nature is there for his taking continues when he says he "eyed the banquet" (25). Pausing for a moment, the youth observes the scene, which he describes as a "banquet," revealing his view of nature as his own personal feast that he can harvest and ravage as he pleases.
Because he is alone, the boy allows himself to enjoy nature for a short time, and he revels in its beauty, but this does not satisfy his urge to reap nature's fruits. When he stops to contemplate the "banquet" before him, the speaker says he does it "with wise restraint voluptuous, fearless of a rival" (23-24). Realizing that there is...
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