Where I Lived and What I Lived For: Paragraph 1 and 8

Nikolete Michalkow, Alice West, Allie Driesen, Cooper Fensterstock, Maddie Tavernier

When beginning the project, our group did not have trouble choosing a passage. After looking at multiple passages for a moment, our group landed on Where I Lived and What I Lived For.

Upon viewing the multiple drafts, our group found it intriguing to see the changes Thoreau made to the first paragraph. In versions D, E, F, G, and the Princeton final edition, the beginning paragraphs begin with “At a certain season of our lives, we are accustomed to considering every spot as the possible site of a house.” While this may not initially strike one as a fascinating paragraph, upon looking at the first versions, A, B, and C, it is interesting to see the stark changes Thoreau made throughout his editing process. Additionally, it perfectly sets up the rest of the writing throughout the piece.

While analyzing further, our group found that the first version, version A is strikingly different and about something else than the other versions. For instance, version A begins with, “When I first went to the pond to live, my house was unfinished, not being finished for winter and but merely a defense against the rain, without plastering or chimney…” Then, versions B and C are introduced with, “When I first took up my abode in the woods, my house was not finished for the winter, but was merely a defense against the rain, without plastering or chimney…” While the minor change is switching from him talking about a house on a pond to a house in the woods, it changes the entire perspective. Our group was uncertain of why he changed it; however, we do believe that it makes more sense for the readers to picture a house in the woods rather than on a pond due to the further details he goes into later in the piece.

His initial first paragraph in the first three versions turned into the eighth paragraph in the final versions. He made various alterations to the three versions before deciding to add several paragraphs before this paragraph began. The version before he changed everything, version C, introduces with, “When I first took up my abode in the woods, my house was not finished for the winter, but was merely a defense against the rain, without plastering or chimney, or much furniture, with walls of rough weather-stained boards and wide chinks, which made it cool at night, was itself an inspiring object, and reacted on me the builder.” Our group analyzed this quote and believed that, due to Thoreau not being protected from the natural aspects of nature, he formed an increasing connection to it. Throughout his writings about nature, it is crucial to note that he never complains about it but only reflects upon it. The nature around him, even the cold rain, makes him feel interconnected with nature.

Furthermore, our group felt that this passage as a beginning paragraph would be nearly too much for the reader to digest without knowing the context. Thus, Thoreau recognized this and provided the readers with much more context and information in the introduction paragraph so that, when reaching the section in paragraph eight, it would be much easier to understand and grasp.

A large portion of the piece is based on Thoreau imagining everywhere he could live, yet the thought of it is much more satisfying than an actual house or material goods. He talks about the plans and houses he could build; however, he decides against them because he believes the more fulfilling part is leaving things alone.
When reviewing and analyzing a text, our group paid close attention to detail. For instance, while studying versions D and E, Thoreau alters a little detail in the first few words of the starting sentence, creating a difference. In version D, the sentence starts with, “At some seasons of our lives.” Yet, in version E and the further versions after that, it begins with, “At a certain season of our lives.” While this is a minor difference, our group found that it changed the piece’s perspective by simply adjusting one word. To our group, Thoreau finally saw the direction in which this piece was going and decided to enunciate that decision. Changing the wording from some to certain alters an infirmity of the season that Thoreau then goes into explaining throughout the text.
This revision also follows the drastic change of taking the original first paragraph and making it the eighth one, emphasizing the direction Thoreau goes.

Following our group viewing the minor changes Thoreau made, we felt that the prominent alteration in the introduction paragraph was crucial to look at. Versions A, B, and C are repositioned in the eighth paragraph of the final version. In his first version, version A, he described many details that, without an introduction paragraph, feel intense for the reader. In the final version, Thoreau takes his time explaining the houses he imagined living in, yet is broad with his information and then presents more heavy details later. We agreed with Thoreau’s decision because the final version feels much more complete with information and follows the story of his imagination and the production of this piece.

Thoreau’s ability to create a story, combined with the detail of nature, was very fascinating to our group. After seeing how many drafts there were, it was surprising to see how many times it takes for a writer to feel final in their decisions and publish a piece. It was easy for our group to see the difficulties, complications, and evolutions Thoreau went through during this process of the piece. We feel that Thoreau’s vulnerability in showing his drafts and mistakes is admirable. Since most of our group is English or education majors, it made us feel seen. While writing, sometimes it can make writers feel discouraged because of the many drafts and alterations they have to go through. Yet, the visualization of Thoreau’s drafts made everyone feel more at ease, learning that everyone goes through drafts and mistakes, even Thoreau.

Nature Is About Perspective

As I observe the scenery around me, I am shocked at how different it feels compared to the summertime. While my eyes see the same, my body senses many diverse qualities. The waves crash harder against the rock just as the wind hits my face with a crisp sensation, and the houses across the lake, normally full of people and boats, are deserted. In the summer, I would stay here for hours, reading, writing, or taking photos, and I appreciated the breeze when the sun was beating down. Today, I wouldn’t say I like the breeze, as I get colder with each one that blows past me.

Despite the coldness, I decided to stay and sit on the bench closest to the water. As I sat down, I finally realized just how cold it was, as my legs seemed to tense up when they touched the bench. Yet, as I slowly got used to the cooling feeling on my legs, I began to observe more closely how wonderful this place was. I decided it was time to discover more than just looks; I wanted to hear the world around me. So, I closed my eyes and was truly impacted by how many sounds I missed by focusing on looks. I could perceive every wave crashing against each rock before finally hitting the wall and hearing each bird diving into the water, hoping to find food.

My usual quest for going to this spot was to get some pictures that I could post. Before this activity, I would always be on my phone or trying to find the best picture spot. Yet, when I finally just put my phone away and didn’t worry about posting a picture, I could capture the true image of how magnificent this place is.

I decided, in my journey of feeling more connected to the earth, that I would sit on the grass as long as it was dry. Luckily, it was, and I felt closer than ever before. I sat down, put my hands on the grass next to me, and closed my eyes, surrounding myself with nature’s beauty and the sounds it creates.

Not only did this activity connect me to nature, but it made me realize how lucky I am to experience connecting with nature and having the time and ability to do so. Many people are not able to obtain this gift of nature, either due to wars, natural disasters, or any other life-changing reason. This connection with nature puts into perspective how grateful I am for the life and surroundings I can be around whenever I choose, without any restrictions.

I realized that when I am around nature, I take it for granted and do not appreciate the trees blooming, waves crashing, or animals around that make it what it truly is. As I continue to go through life following this activity, I will be sure to admire and appreciate as much of nature as possible, ensuring to notice the natural beauty around me.

Screen Shot 2024-04-24 at 4.34.40 PM

The Unnoticed Women Throughout History

As I began registering for this class, I was unsure what the outcome would be. Truthfully, the aspects I have learned in this class have appeared different from my initial thoughts. I believed that we would only be learning about how computers have changed literature and how progressive literature has gotten. While this is a slight glimpse of what I have learned, I have gained so much more of an understanding of the history and future of computers. An aspect that has stayed in my mind throughout the semester is how involved women were in the advancement of computers.

During the first days of classes, while going through and commenting on The Untold Story of the Women who Made the Internet: BroadBand, it was so intriguing to see how many of my peers also had no idea about women during the development of computing. To go into more detail, during World War II, a whole new technology emerged, making it easier to mark and drop bombs when needed. Yet, Evans states that without the assistance of women in the computing process, the men would have never known where to drop the bombs. “Men may have dropped bombs, but it was women who told them where to do it.”(53). This information is shocking because it feels that although the women were not physically fighting in the war, they did not receive the credit they deserved. While reading further, what was additionally startling was even after all of the help provided during the war, once it ended, there were no guaranteed jobs for women.

So, this then goes into what I would like to learn and become more knowledgeable about. I feel that it is substantially important to know who was part of a creation that is so prominent in our everyday lives. It feels especially noteworthy when those vital people who were part of history do not get any credit for their developments. Before this class, I did not know that women were involved with computers because no one had ever educated me on it. I suppose when you consider an event like World War II, you think of the soldiers who physically fought. Nevertheless, it is also crucial to consider women’s computing and being behind the technological part that allowed the soldiers to complete their work as safely and efficiently as possible.

It has become apparent to me that a woman’s work usually goes unnoticed and unappreciated regardless of the impact it has or could make. As exemplified above, even after all of the consistent service women provided during the war, were still viewed as useless and not as competent as men. Various companies similar to Remington Rand, continued to have an “old-school” mindset, refusing to hire a woman to do computing, joining the navy, or mathematics. The men running these companies believed that women could never understand any installations they created.

Betty Holberton, however, proved these companies wrong by creating “Betty’s Sort-Merge Generator”, the first time a computer was used to write a program that wrote a program. Before this, many computers thought that this would be impossible, let alone a woman would invent it. The section about Betty’s Sort-Merge Generator was my favorite because it accurately portrayed the power of women and changed their lives forever.