In the book A Walk in the Woods, which event seems the most important to author Bill Bryson and why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'm not sure which event is the most important as there are a number of significant events that occur in the book. One that stands out for me is towards the end when Bryson and Katz enter the Hundred Mile Wilderness section in Maine. Nature and the impact it can have on us is the central theme of the book. Bryson recounts events that leave him in awe of nature. While some events, such as the blizzard early on and Bryson's visit to Mount Washington highlight the power of nature, none of these events prove overwhelming to the author. By contrast, when Bryson and Katz enter the Hundred Mile Wilderness they are left in awe of how dense and alien the forest feels. The pair follow their normal pursuit of Bryson hiking ahead and waiting for Katz, only this time their normal actions almost result in disaster as Katz gets lost for a time. This experience leads the two to quit their attempts on the Appalachian Trail. This is one of the only events in the book that cause Bryson and Katz to quit their endeavor, making it a significant event.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Walk in the Woods, one of author Bill Bryson's main themes concerns how overpowering nature truly is. Truly experiencing nature is humbling, allowing us to see how unimportant we are and to feel ourselves as being just a tiny part of this vast world. Since nature is so very overpowering, it is actually also very terrifying. It can be argued that Bryson feels the most humbled and terrified of nature when he first looks at the actual map of the entire Appalachian Trail.

In Chapter 8, the group needs to stop off at an outfitters because Stephen Katz, his hiking partner, needed new bootlaces. While browsing the store, Bryson saw a map of the trail pinned to the wall; the map encompassed "its long march through fourteen states" (p. 104). He then notices that the map was "six inches wide and four feet high" (p. 104). At first, the map did not faze him, but as he looked closer and at the entire map, he became astonished. He especially notes, "Of the four feet of trail map before me, reaching approximately from my knees to the top of my head, we had done the bottom two inches" (p. 105). When he showed the map to Katz, Katz expressed their sentiments best when he said, "Jesus ... We've done nothing" (p. 105). It was at that point he realized how enormous and overpowering nature is. He further realized that everything they had accomplished so far, including the blizzards, amounted to absolutely nothing--to only two inches. Hence, all in all, this is the moment when he first feels the most humbled in the entire book.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial