Looking closer into John Muir’s lifelong love for nature and exploring gives further insight into his emphasis on the earth and animals in his writing. National Parks assistant editor Amy Marquis describes in her biography, “A Mountain Calling”, that Muir dedicated his life to learning about and preserving natural habitats, and it is due to his efforts that we now have Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, the Petrified Forest, and Sequoia National Park. Today he is often known as the “Father of Our National Parks” (Marquis 59). Not only did he fight for the preservation of wildlife during his time, but he was also the cofounder and first president of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization that still stands today (Colby 2). Thisknowledge of John Muir’s passion for nature makes it clear why Muir places so much emphasis on nature in “Stickeen.” Muir spent a great deal of time outdoors, and due to this knowledge and experience he is able to brilliantly describe the setting and events that take place in his essay. Theimagery present in his writing is beautiful, and it is easy for readers to enter this world as he writes, “I see the gray flying clouds with their rain-floods and snow, the ice-cliffs towering abovethe shrinking forest, the majestic ice-cascade, the vast glacier outspread before its white 4
mountain-fountains…” (Muir 43). Muir’s intimate relationship with the environment also sheds light on his relationship and feelings about Stickeen in the story. In Muir’s personal life he responded more to the earth and animals then with Western culture and people, and thus, “for him, a “good dog” was one at home in wild nature,” just as Stickeen was (Armbruster 364). This commonality is what led Muir to have an interest in Stickeen and study him so closely. Muir wasconnected with plants and animals, and it was this trait that allowed Muir to understand and learna great deal from Stickeen. Muir had also been exposed to this particular type of situation once before in his life, which further reinforced his strong beliefs on the impact a single incident can have.Muir’s personal experiences during his early life give insight into his strong values and attitude in “Stickeen”. In March 1867, Muir was involved in an accident that badly injured his eye. In hopes of recovering, Muir was forced to stay in a dark room for six weeks, terrified that he would never regain his eyesight. After that frightening occurence, when Muir finally did regain his eyesight, he stated, “This affliction has driven me to the sweet fields. God has to
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- Spring '17
- It, John Muir, Sierra Club, Sequoia National Park, naturalist John Muir