Identify and examine the two climaxes from My Side of the Mountain. At the same time, identify quotes or evidence that supports the themes of living as one with nature and balancing the need for...

Identify and examine the two climaxes from My Side of the Mountain. At the same time, identify quotes or evidence that supports the themes of living as one with nature and balancing the need for solitude and human contact.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I definitely believe that one significant aspect of the climax is when Sam's family arrives to live on the farm. This moment can be seen as a climax because Sam's story comes full circle.  The journey he set on has made a full revolution.  He recognizes that he has gained more insight into himself and must also gain further introspection because it becomes clear that he will never be able to escape the clutches of society and of human beings.  This is also partly because he does yearn from companionship.  Sam does not express difficulty in being amidst the natural setting.  He expresses difficulty at being around people, but is plagued with the need for people.  The climax in which his parents and family come to settle down with him represents a moment when the action has reached its natural consequence.

I think that a precondition for this climax to emerge is the impact that some of Sam's visitors have on him.  When Matt the reporter visits with him, Sam does recognize that part of his being is reverting back to what was in civilized New York, and amongst people.  He also understands that with human beings comes a level of deception that he has escaped in being away from them.  When Matt tells the news staff about Sam's location, he recognizes that living amongst human beings poses a contradiction for him.  On one hand, Sam does not like being amongst human beings and likes the isolation of the natural setting. However, companionship is something that he misses.  This was seen with Matt, along with his feelings towards Tom and Bando.  It is clear that Sam does miss companionship, and thus the contradiction emerges.  I think that an argument could be made that part of the climax of the novel involves how Sam interprets the visits from Matt, and from others like Tom.  These instances help to generate the climax where Sam must recognize that being a human being means finding balance with the world, ourselves, and our place in it.

It is in this light where I think that one of the most dominant themes in the novel is what it means to live as one with nature.  Sam does not merely survive in the wild. He thrives on it.  A significant theme that emerges is that Sam understands what it means to be a part of the natural setting:

See that falcon? Hear those white-throated sparrows? Smell that skunk? Well, the falcon takes the sky, the white-throated sparrow takes the low bushes, the skunk takes the earth...I take the woods.

Sam comes to understand his own predicament as one where every creature has a role and function. The homeostatic condition of the natural world is one where all creatures understand this balance.  The novel displays the idea that to be in balance is to live as one with nature and to understand one's function within it.  This sense of order and understanding is what Sam sees as absent from modern society, and what helps to provide a sense of attraction to the natural world.

There is another thematic connection to the idea of balance. Sam comes to grasp that he has to balance his love of the natural world and the isolation within it along with his need for human contact.  There is much in New York that Sam dislikes.  However, he is unable to fully embrace the life of natural isolation.  Bando gives the name "Thoreau" to Sam.  This is significant because Thoreau himself sought to generate balance between the natural world and the world of human beings.  As much as Thoreau enjoyed Walden and being apart from the conformist world, the reality is that he did not use it as a means to escape his responsibilities and sense of connection to others.  Like Thoreau, Sam is left to seek further introspection about what it means to be alone, but how to also find balance with others.  It is clear that he misses companionship. At the same time, it is evident that Sam enjoys the magic of the natural setting:

I must say this now about that first fire. It was magic. Out of dead tinder and grass and sticks came a live warm light. It cracked and snapped and smoked and filled the woods with brightness. It lighted the trees and made them warm and friendly. It stood tall and bright and held back the night.

One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is that when his family arrives, Sam must confront the reality of never being able to escape.  He cannot use the natural world to evade that which he must confront.  Rather, Sam is left to find balance and order in a condition that he could not envision it at the start of the narrative.  It is here in which the theme of balance is seen again, only this time, it is in Sam's ability to be both with and without human contact.

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