Lesson 150. As a writer of an autobiography about life in the woods, would you spend more pages describing an ant war or loons? Why?


In this essay I will be discussing and answering the essay question above which asks whether I would spend more pages describing Ant Wars or Loons in my autobiography. This question is based off of Henry David Thoreau’s autobiography, Walden.

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In Walden, Back-to-nature environmentalist Henry David Thoreau spends several pages describing an ant war. In this ‘ant war’ two different types of ants, in their hundreds, clash with each other outside Thoreau’s shack, where he was living. Thoreau’s description of the battling ants is very well done and painted a vivid picture in my head when I first read it.

A couple of chapters later, Thoreau also describes a loon, (a type of water-bird) that kept diving under the surface of the pond. Thoreau was in his boat at the time and he tried to chase the loon, which would dive and then resurface in another spot. In this way, Thoreau almost played a game with the loon, never being able to catch it in his boat.

Personally, I found the description of the ant war much more interesting than that of the loon, as it was more unique and informative. I had never known that two types of ants could fight each other and, if Thoreau was being truthful, this was a great discovery for me when I first read it.

The description of the loon on the other hand, is not as unique as that of the ant war. In the description, the loon keeps diving in the pond and Thoreau, being on a boat in the pond, tries to chase the bird around. When I was reading this section on the loon, I found it only half-interesting and I just skimmed through it.

I think that, as an author of an autobiography, you should (if possible) have at least one unique story or something to share that will interest the reader because they have not heard of anything like it. This was the case for me when I read Thoreau’s section on the ant war. It was unique, something I had never heard about. Loons on the other hand, are known to be natural divers to catch fish for their food.

Thoreau’s loon-catching experience was, in the end, not that interesting to me and, dare I say it, the passage just reminded me of a small child who has seen an animal for the first time and wants to catch it with childlike pleasure.


To summarise and conclude the essay, today I wrote about Henry David Thoreau’s description of a loon and an ant war in his autobiography. Reading about the ant war was a unique experience, one that I enjoyed very much, as I had never heard of ants fighting each other. On the other hand, the description of the loon was somewhat boring and not unique. I also stated that, if you have a unique story available, it could be used as a great literary tool in your autobiography, as it is those unique passages that really grabs the attention of the reader.


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