This paper aims to state, compare and contrast the thesis of two closely related pieces of classical works: My Wood by E. M. Forster, and Who Owns the Mountains by Henry van Dyke. Besides, the paper will discuss the in-depth content of both essays.
Property ownership is the state of having unrestricted rights, control, and access over the property. The concept of property ownership has existed in all communities over the centuries though it has different meanings in different cultures. Forster and van Dyke both address this concept from different perspectives. Both discourage the audience from having possession of a lot of property, Forster goes through this by outlining the effects of owning property on the owner while van Dyke addresses it from a true ownership point of view.
In My Wood, Forster outlines the effects of owning property and then goes on to explain and give examples of such effects. He owns a small estate purchased out of fees from a novel he wrote and wittingly discusses the effects that this has had on him. The first effect of owning property is that it makes one heavy, or rigid, as he cannot undertake any other duties apart from those related to his properties. Secondly, it makes one be greed. As one collects property, he is never satisfied and wants whatever he sees that does not belong to him. Thirdly, the property gives the owner an unsettled mind as he ponders over what he should do to gain satisfaction from his possessions, and finally, property ownership makes one selfish as his possessions benefit nobody but himself (Forster, para. 7). Forster is plainly stating that while something may seem simple, one should consider the consequences before engaging in any venture.
In Who Owns the Mountains? Van Dyke mainly deals with true ownership of property in this essay. He addresses the issue of property ownership by referring to the Mountains, which he describes with much detail to illustrate how much he admired and adored them. These are the Twin Mountain, Mount Garfield, Lafayette, Eagle Cliff, Bald Mountain, Cannon Mountain, and Moosilauke, he describes them so passionately that according to his explanation of property ownership, they belong to him. He also refers to the properties owned by Honorable Midas Bond and Pompous Silverman and describes how they were not the true owners of such property. He looks at property ownership from a religious point of view, likening true ownership of the property to God’s ownership of earth: He has given away all his Creations and does not possess any title deeds. His only possession is the perfect understanding, joy, and love for all He made and this is an ideal example of true ownership (Van Dyke, para. 18).
After going over the two essays repeatedly, I came up with the ideal theses as outlined below.
- The thesis for My Wood is: Property ownership may cause spiritual poverty.
- The thesis for Who Owns the Mountains is: True ownership of a property is not bestowed unto the owner.
The two theses almost look alike: both touch on the topic of property ownership. The difference is in the journey towards acquiring property and its effects.
Van Dyke writes that a property is truly owned if the owner can take it to his inner life by understanding it, showing admiration, sympathy, and love (Van Dyke, para. 10). He dismisses the notion that simply paying up for property makes one the owner, he goes on to write that the one person who tends to the purchased items with passion is the true owner. He gives examples of Pomposus Silverman and Honorable Midas Bond as examples of people who purchased expensive and rare treasures, but they are not the true owners of such items. They belong to those who hold them, dear, in this case, the art students and Bücherfreund, Silverman’s employee, respectively. Possession of wealth can make one miss out on the real wealth of spiritual fulfillment.
Forster also goes further than just ownership of the property; he informs us of the negative traits associated with owning property and the effects of an endeavor to own a lot of property. As the thesis states, the quest to own property can make one be selfish and separate himself from the world thinking he has all he needs. He exemplifies Ahab, who did not need the vines, but planted them around his property to keep off intruders. Besides selfishness, property ownership gives one a restless mind that originates from the desire to compensate for the inability to enjoy the property owned. Thus, instead of the property bringing fulfillment to the owner, it causes a void in the heart as he becomes lonely and ponders over his inability to be happy with so much at his disposal. Owning property fills the owner with greed as he keeps wanting more and is never satisfied with what he already has (Forster, para. 6).
In conclusion, Forster does an excellent work of illustrating the effects of property ownership to his audience and justifies the thesis provided as he proves that property ownership truly causes spiritual poverty. The four effects of owning property that he gives are all related to one’s inner self. Van Dyke, on the other hand, explores this topic from a religious point of view, owing to his background as a Presbyterian minister, and proves to his audience that true ownership is not bestowed unto the owner, but on the one person who shows admiration, sympathy, love, and understanding.
Forster, Edward Morgan. My Wood. California: Harcourt, Brace and Company. 1936.
Van Dyke, Henry. Who Owns the Mountains? New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1905.