History/ES 247 Reading Guide

The Third Traveler’s Tale:  The Maine Woods

  • Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods (1864), Introduction by Edward Hoagland (1988).


A note of caution:  do not let Geoffrey Paul Carpenter’s reading of Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, for the evidence it provides for Carpenter's study of deforestation in Maine, unduly influence your pre-conceptions and reading of Thoreau’s book.  Keep your mind focused on the complex perspectives and the mid-nineteenth century context which shaped Thoreau’s view of the Maine woods and his place in it.

  • For whom did Thoreau write?  For what purposes did he write?
  • What conceptual frameworks and questions and what analytical frameworks shaped his account of his travels? How did the variety of concerns and values complicate his understanding and assessment of the woods, wilderness, nature, human presence, and civilization?
  • How did Thoreau’s perspective on nature change over the course of his travels?  What changes in the Maine woods did he see and experience over the course of his travels?  What changes did he see in himself?  How did he reflect on those changes?
  • What did Thoreau critique?  What did he praise?  Were there inconsistencies in his assessments, and did he see them in this way?
  • How did the era in which he lived and traveled shape his account?

Link to the Instructions for writing the short essays on the travelers’ tales.

Map of Thoreau’s travels in the Maine woods, 1846, 1853, 1857.

Map of the Maine Travelers:  Levett, Dwight, Thoreau.


Indian Island Ferry

Indian Island Ferry  Old Town, Maine  (n.d.)

Indian Island, Old Town

Indian Island, Old Town, Me. [also printed as The Island Home of the Penobscots] (c.1906)

West branch of the Penobscot North East Carry

West Branch of Penobscot, Me.  (c.1907);  No. East Carry, Me., Transporting Canoes to West Branch of Penobscot.  (c.1910)

West Branch of the Penobscot

West Branch of Penobscot River, Maine.  (c.1910)

North East Carry

No. East Carry, Me., West Branch of Penobscot River.  (c.1910)

Mt. Katahdin

Mt. Katahdin, from Mountain View House, Millinocket, Me.  (c.1908)

Mt. Katahdin

Mt. Katahdin from Daicey Pond, Maine  (c.1950)

The Narrows, Penobscot River

The Narrows, Penobscot River, Me.  (c.1910)

Penobscot River near Hampden

Penobscot River, near Hampden, Me.  (c.1908)

Penobscot River

Penobscot River.  (c.1905)