Wilderness in Muir and Marsh

    Marsh and Muir both portray wilderness as nature without the interference of mankind. According to Marsh, wilderness is what existed before man and what has not been altered by humans. Wilderness is the purest form of nature and once humans enter it is no longer pure. For instance, nature had to prepare for man’s inhabitation because man “is a disturbing agent” and wherever he goes the harmonics of nature are destroyed. The wilderness ceases to exist once man coincides with nature, because the land becomes what humans want it to be rather what it naturally was.  The wilderness is where the wild animals and wild vegetation “live, multiply their kind in just portion, and attain their perfect measure of strength and beauty…” (Marsh 36) but this cannot happen with man’s inhabitation. Also, without man’s interference, “lower animal and spontaneous vegetable life would have been practically constant in type, distribution, and portion…” (Marsh 36) Even the efforts of man to repair the damage done does not compare to what is lost in nature. Man’s new forests, seas and inland waters re-peopled with fish give “but faint hope that we shall make full atonements for our spend-thrift waste of the bounties of nature” (Marsh 44)

    Muir’s perspective of nature is similar to Marsh’s. He begins his article with beautiful and descriptive portrayals of nature. Nature is vast, amazing, and a perfect garden of God. The wilderness is still the purest form of nature when it’s uncontaminated by mankind. “But when the steel axe of the white man rang out in the startled air their doom was sealed.” (Muir 146) He depicts the forests on the shores of the Pacific settled by white settlers as a sad moment for the amount of wilderness continues to dwindle since they were “the last of the great aboriginal forests…” (Muir 147) Once humans inhabit the land it becomes civilization instead of a place where natural processes continue unaffected and nature has superiority. Also, wilderness in the texts of Muir and Marsh are the highest form of nature that humans throughout the readings try to return to once the damage is done. Wilderness is the place where the forest is the best God ever planted and where the monarchs proclaim “the gospel of beauty…” (Muir 143)


Marsh, George P. The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Ch. /Art: Destructiveness of Man; Instability of American Life p. 33-55, 396-397. Pub. Arno Press 1970

Muir, John. The Atlantic Monthly. 70/178 Ch./Art: The American Forests p.145/157. Pub. Atlantic Monthly August 1897



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