The Hinterland Alison Pick - The Dream World, 2009

Alison Pick's "The Hinterland" brings to mind the teaching's of Henry Thoreau - specifically in Walking, an essay first published in 1862. Thoreau’s concern for humanity emerges from the apparent disconnect between people and nature. Besides stressing the importance of nature to humankind, Walking reminds readers how a simple act of mobility brings about a wildness essential to humanity. If individuals fail to withdraw into wilderness, their spirit and identity suffer. The act - or art - of walking is an attempt to confront nature directly, understand the wilderness within ourselves, and to journey outside, away from the demands of belonging to a capitalist, class and gender based community.

Perhaps the constriction of being a woman in a patriarchal community is why Pick's speaker walks as far as they can, "then farther," into wilderness (Pick 2). Clearly, the demands of belonging to a particular community that sets women back socially, economically, and politically has caused a "rut" in the speaker's thoughts. This rut, or pattern of dull and unproductive behavior, is difficult to break. Here, Pick addresses how patriarchal ideologies holds individuals back, especially by using imagery of "chain-link barring" roads and "tire tracks deep as the rut" the speaker always gets stuck in (3-4).

Pick also tackles the theme of unwanting; that is, the desire to be free of material goods and fixating on what one does not have. The idea of being "rid of the world / called wanting" (7-8) can be achieved by walking. The speaker walks as far as they can to escape the demands of their community. Then, the mind takes over, journeying farther once the self is surrounded by nature. Being surrounded by nature allows the speaker to freely delve into the mind without capitalist or patriarchal influences. Here, a relationship is established between nature and the self, especially when the natural world is used to express the speaker's struggles. Escaping the material world (of "Bottles" and "Condoms"), for example, is like a "boulder" that obstructs one's path into enlightenment, or weighs down one's consciousness (8, 12-13).

Another example of the relationship between nature and the self is Pick's description of "gathering mammals / bending to drink at the silent pool / of mind submerged in mind" (22-24). If one considers that the pool represents the speaker's mind - where imagination has free reign - then the connection between the natural world and humanity deepens. However, as the speaker turns for home, animals become indistinguishable in the night like "black-brown shapes" (21). This indicates that understanding oneself - and understanding the world - may only be found in nature. Additionally, it is through one's imagination that the gap between nature and humanity may be filled.

The "weight of being human / where other humans have been" is certainly heavy when one forgets to reconnect with nature (13-14). After all, nature allows individuals to escape the demands of patriarchal systems and capitalism. Therefore, wilderness and imagination are key components in healing the self. Perhaps that is why Pick evokes Thoreau's sentiment that "Wildness is the preservation of the World" (Walking, 1862).


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