A romantic poet, William Wordsworth examines the relationship between the individual and nature. In the poem "Nutting," Wordsworth focuses on the role that innocence plays in this relationship as he describes a scene that leads to his own coming of age. Unlike many of his other poems, which reveal the ability to experience and access nature in an innocent state, "Nutting" depicts Wordsworth's inability as a young boy to fully appreciate nature, causing him to destroy it. Addressing a young girl, most likely his sister, he writes to poem as a warning of what happens within oneself when one does not fully appreciate nature. In his youth, the speaker is too excited by duty and too tempted by the wealth that nature holds to control his desire to destroy it. His defilement of nature's innocence, however, immediately disturbs him, causing him to question the value of material wealth and to realize the importance of nature, something that the speaker in the present now recognizes and shows in his interjections throughout the poem.
Told to collect hazelnuts in the forest by the woman he works for, the young speaker enthusiastically sets out to fulfill his duty. Revealing the child's innocence, the speaker says he leaves his house "in the eagerness of boyish hope sallying forth" (4-5). The word "eagerness" reveals his excitement for the approaching task, while the phrase "boyish hope" emphasizes his young age and the purity of his "eagerness." "Sallying" adds an element of lightheartedness to the youthful image. Yet the boy does not embark on some random excursion, but leaves "with a huge wallet o'er my shoulder slung, a nutting-crook in hand" (6-7). The youth goes to collect haz...
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... a boy when he could control his sexual urges. This violent description of a boy's first sexual encounter is both intriguing and disturbing. Yet, at the same time, the poem seems to speak to the higher theme of industrialization. As a boy, fascinated by the prospect of wealth and fame, the speaker destroys the nature around him to harvest its treasures, just as society does. However, this cannot satisfy the boy, and he realizes the importance of nature that money can never replace. The violent, sexual imagery intensifies and emphasizes the horror of the act committed by the boy. Although society feels no guilt in its actions of demolition, the speaker uses the poem to chastise people for their disregard for nature. These two different readings of the poem offer two completely diverse tones, but which both depict a violent corruption and defilement of innocence.
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