The Transcendentalist - Hardin County Schools

The Transcendentalists and
Calvin & Hobbs
Calvin and Hobbes: The Nature Strips
Calvin and Hobbes ran in newspapers from 1985 to 1995. The strip shows the
imaginative fun and mischief of a six year old boy named Calvin and his tiger
Hobbes (to Calvin, he is a live talking and walking tiger while to others he is a
stuffed tiger). Despite the trouble and chaos they ensue on their house,
neighbors, and classmates (Hobbes has eaten a bully or too), the two engage in
philosophical conversations with each other (they are named after philosophers
John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes) about life and the nature of people.
A common theme within the strip is environmentalism and the conservation of the
wilderness around them. During their time outside, be it during summer vacation or a cold
winter day, Calvin and Hobbes truly lose themselves in the vastness of nature, engaging in
activities like racing down a dangerous hill on a wagon or sled only to fly off a cliff or into a
lake, getting into a snowball fight with the neighbor girl, Susie Derkins, or just taking a
relaxing walk through the woods. Even though Calvin’s father tends to drag him on an
unbearable family vacation to an island that only he, Calvin’s dad, enjoys, Calvin and Hobbes
love nature.
The writings of Henry David Thoreau quickly come to mind when thinking of these
two and their adventures in nature. At times, the cartoonist views nature, much as
Thoreau’s writing depicts, and shows Calvin, Hobbes, and in some cases Calvin’s
dad, getting out into nature. Nature becomes a sanctuary, giving Calvin and
Hobbes a chance to think about the world in a larger way than when they are in
the house. It is no wonder that many of their philosophical conversations take
place in nature.
There are times where Calvin enjoys being out in the elements, soaking up the air
and the feeling of being alive, while other times he’ll be put in a foul mood
because of man’s carelessness in how they treat the world around them, his father
constantly dragging his family to a remote region for family bonding, or just an allaround “summer is over and school is starting up again” blues.
So here are a few more adventures and epiphanies of nature starring Calvin and
Dad’s Vacations
Calvin’s father, a slave to a desk job in the city, is constantly getting himself and
the family back into nature every summer, much to the displeasure of Calvin and
Mom. It is always the same: Dad enjoys himself, Mom questions why she married
him, and Calvin bluntly complains about how much he hates being away from the
It is very clear that Calvin’s dad is a firm believer in getting back into nature by
camping. Unfortunately for him, he’s the only one. Getting up at the crack of
dawn to go swimming, boating, and fishing seems to be the way he wants to
escape the endless hustle and bustle of working in an office in the big city.
However, Calvin and his mom represent the exact opposite. Instead of wanting
the fresh catch that Dad has proudly caught, gutted, and prepared for them as a
good nutritious breakfast, Mom makes it very clear that the last thing she wants
to eat is something from nature at such an early hour.
Calvin, in true six year old fashion, would rather be watching TV at home than be
in a cabin in the middle of nature.
Calvin and Hobbes try to enjoy their stay by taking a canoe expedition in the lake
near the cabin. Calvin’s overactive imagination tries to get him interested in
nature by running wild. Unfortunately, Hobbes is the voice of reality, and spoils his
attempts at seeing a whale, eel, and (of all things to find in a lake) a “mast of an
old Spanish galleon, sunk hundreds of years ago.” Hopes foiled, Calvin to
continues his rants on camping in the wood with no TV.
Another moment in Calvin’s trip into the wilderness. Calvin’s six-year old
desires crave the mind depleting entertainment that a television
provides. Unfortunately, he must find other endeavors to keep himself
amused. As majestic as a sunset is as it falls behind the trees, shining orange
light upon the water, Calvin is anything but moved by this display.
In yet another camping excursion with Dad, Calvin finds himself on a
canoe. While Calvin’s dad is soaking in every moment of it, Calvin plans to
make a “daring overboard escape.” It’s safe to say that when it comes to
being in nature, the last thing Calvin ever wants to do is camp in it.
The Coldest Winter
Wintertime in Calvin’s neighborhood brings out a “getting out into nature”
attitude that everyone (except for Mom) adopts. From sledding down dangerous
tree and rock filled hills, snowball fights with enough ice, rocks, and twigs in
them to draw blood, even the joy of creating a snowman gives Calvin the excuse
to put on a coat and hat and run outside. As long as his homework is done,
because school does not close for an inch of snow.
There are times when Calvin does decide to become one with nature. Calvin’s
favorite season is winter, when everything is covered with snow, and (if it
snows enough) there is no going to school.
On this certain occasion, Calvin and Hobbes go to the hill near his house for a
day of sledding. However, this time he does not wish to sled but to show his
best friend one of his favorite past times on a cloudy winter day.
As Hobbes lies relaxed on the toboggan, Calvin explains that on days like
these, he tends to reflect on the silence, stillness, and peacefulness associated
with winter, as if it was a moment of meditation from the noise of the other
seasons and civilization.
Poor Hobbes never saw what was coming next.
Here we find Dad back outside
in the elements, but this time
during the winter months. The
first two panels explain how
Dad feels about the blustery
weather. As he walks in from
the cold, he reflects on how
good it feels to be outside in
the snow, encouraging the rest
of his family to join him in the
fun of it.
Unfortunately, Mom and Calvin
are not having any part of it
and quickly rag on Dad for
babbling about the cold they
want to stay out of and, on top
of that, leaving the door open
so that the cold can come in.
Calvin’s Backyard Nature Thoughts
Despite what he thinks about camping with his family, there are times
where Calvin has a soft spot for nature. In these instances, he
acknowledges that humans are not the only ones that inhabit this earth
and that the balance between man and nature should be respected at all
times. So when man oversteps their boundaries into nature, Calvin will
express his angry and blunt disapproval. It all starts when he takes a trip
through the woods in his backyard.
This just screams Thoreau, with just a dash of Darwin. Calvin and Hobbes
discover that a clear wreckage has been made in the woods. To his disdain, he
discovers the culprit is man, specifically the people at Shady Acres
Condominiums. A deeply enraged Calvin goes off on a ranting tirade about
how animals have no use for condos and more use of the trees that use to
inhabit the area. He then puts the wild idea in the air that humans would not
like it if animals ssuddenly bulldozed a suburb and put in new trees, an idea
that Hobbes intended to pursue. This illustrates the worst case scenario given
if people continue to expand civilization and deplete the wilderness.
Calvin and Hobbes are on another one of their many excursions out into
the wilderness and Calvin brings up that the world is full of sounds from
people, radios, and engines (vehicles like cars, planes, etc.). As soon as
they get into the wilderness, he brings up how “startling” it is to be in the
stillness of nature versus the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To Hobbes,
it’s relaxing and very therapeutic, similar to the snowy hill and the
toboggan; to Calvin, it’s nerve wrecking.
After discovering several cans strewn in various parts of the forest, a livid Calvin
makes an angry declaration that the people on the planet don’t care about the
world they live in. This shows that Calvin, even though he is back and forth about
it, cares about nature and that it is important for the humans in it to conserve it
and not trash it.
Hobbes being the animal that he is, states he takes pride in not being human, not
worrying about leaving non-biodegradable waste in the woods. Calvin, feeling
that his race is not going to change, strips and follows suit. This speaks volumes
about how the two see humanity in relation to nature: Calvin, being a human,
understands that there are certain balances that humans must not interfere with,
but cannot change the fact that there are humans out there who do indeed mess
up the world for every person and animal in it. Hobbs is glad he’s not part of the
Here we have another Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes and the trash in the
woods. An angered Calvin once again questions the mental capacity and the
consideration of humans towards nature.
Hobbes’ strange sense of optimism is somewhat baffling. In the previous strips,
he is pretty dismissive of all humans changing their ways to better the woods. In
this strip however, he seems to think that a change in smarter thinking (more
than cleaner actions) is a possibility.
Whether or not it was a sarcastic quip (as seen in the last panel) cannot be
determined, but since Hobbes thinks more of animals than humans, it looks like
a possibility.
Here a simple, yet grim fact about the deforestation of America, sparks an
epiphany about life in outer space. A quote like this makes us wonder if it is
true. Could there be an intelligent species on the outer banks of our universe and
is the only thing that is keeping them from contacting us is the fact that we
destroy our planet’s ecosystem by chopping down trees in the woods? Looks like a
real possibilty.
During a summer wagon run, Calvin gets an epiphany: The world should
have had fewer inhabitants. His reasoning behind this is the way resources
would be distributed would not have any of the complications as it does
now. Although this seems to be a brilliant idea to Calvin, as a tiger Hobbes
is totally in favor of helping reduce the population.
Global warming. Calvin is not happy with it. Going back to Calvin
understanding that being a human makes him the one to inherit the world,
he decides to go to the one person he can blame this on: his mom.
Theories of price and value are up for discussion when Calvin tells Hobbes
about the talk of opening wilderness for development, or clearing out
woods to obtain needs (oil, timber, minerals, and housing). This is to be at
the price of destroying nature (unspoiled beauty, wildlife, solitude, and
spiritual renewal). With that said, Hobbes’s brings it all together: “We need
to start putting prices on the priceless.”
If there is one part of nature that brings Calvin down is autumn
Sundays. They are just another reminder that summer is gone and that
school is right around the corner for another week of boredom in class.
Hobbes, on the other hand, loves autumn. Unable to understand Calvin’s
plight of going back to school, Hobbes instead looks at autumn through
an artist’s eyes, comparing the changing of the leaves to a “fireworks
display” (KAPOW! FWOOSH! ZINGG!).
Angered and jealous of Hobbes’ freedom and how he rubs it in, Calvin
plots a painful retaliation by picking up apples and preparing to let them
When school lets out for the summer, Calvin takes full advantage of
being able to go out into the wildness of his backyard and either play
or do nothing. This is the period where Calvin is the most in love with
his natural surroundings, taking on a full Thoreau mindset as he
explores the woods, looking for a new adventure to get into or
looking for another quiet spot to curl up next to Hobbes .
Here we find Calvin and Hobbes enjoying their favorite summer pastime:
absolutely nothing.
They could have stayed inside, watched TV, or read comic books, but
instead they make a journey outside and soakup the summer air for as
long as they can. In other strips, Calvin complains that the summer
season isn’t long enough— Read on
Calvin is deeply distressed that the summer days are “slipping
through.” It is clear that he loses track of time when he spends the
majority of his summer doing nothing. However, in this next strip—
Calvin takes time to make an actual itinerary of a summer day. Everything
from digging in the back yard, hitting Susie with a water gun, to running
from a snake that they think is poisonous. Their plans are foiled at the end
of the day when Calvin’s mom scoops them both up. Summer days are a
double-edged sword; whether or not Calvin and Hobbes are doing
something, there aren’t enough hours in the day nor are there enough
days in the break to begin with.
Nature was a common theme for Calvin and Hobbes. Camping and autumn
Sundays excluded, the two are very much in love with their nature
surroundings and also realize that their world is vaster than just their
Understanding that is important. It’s important because we must know
where the resources are and how to use them efficiently rather than just
effectively. For if we do not, we may not have a world left. Then it will be just
as Hobbes said: we’ll simply be here to “devour each other.”

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