Presenting Nature in Western Literature: A Look at Juxtaposition

In western literature, we sometimes find nature to be used as a psychological analogy for “where the wild things are” – the edge of civility where we project our fears.  In Harry Potter, for example, students at Hogwarts are banned from entering the “Forbidden Forest” located at the edge of the “safe” Hogwarts campus.  All manner of wild, scary things are said to be there and – as Harry, Hermione, and Ron discover – truly scary things such as huge spiders are located in the “Forbidden Forest.”  In other examples, Little Red Riding Hood encounters the “Big, bad wolf” in the forest while Hansel and Gretel encounter an evil witch when banished to the woods by their evil stepmother.

Yet, many writers – myself included – find nature to be a positive, enjoyable place to cultivate creativity.  There are, too, instances of writing positively about nature being a place of transcendance – Thoreau’s Walden, William Blake’s Introduction to the Songs of Innocence, etc.

I notice an unintended aspect of the two literature lists above – the forest is viewed as an unsafe place for children but a positive place for adults.  Examples of “nature as a scary place” in adult literature are Frankenstein – where the horrible reflection of our human self wanders off – and Dracula where the evil vampire resides in a far-off castle deep in the woods.

These juxtapositions, of course, are modern ones that emerged after Western literature’s historical literature written when Europe was trying to make sense of the natural world….when the Greeks were writing about humans and gods having children together and so forth.

These more modern juxtapositions about nature in western literature, I think, are indicative of how western society often frames its’ relationship to the world generally.  Are we a part of the planet we live on – the natural world – or are here as independent beneficiaries of the planet and its’ resources?

I put this forward as food-for-thought for fellow writers to consider when writing.  Personally, one of my current works-in-progress writes positively as nature being a place to experience life in its’ fullest potential.

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About Bekka King

I write memoir material and semi-biographic reflection on topics of my choice, allowing me to flirt publicly with an assortment of life fantasies. Follow me to lands maybe not so far away, where I wander into liminal places.
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