I am thoroughly convinced that if Henry David Thoreau could have read Joris-Karl Huysmans’s book, “Against Nature,” he would have been assiduously disgusted by it. Des Esseintes represented and admired everything that Thoreau tried to leave behind when he escaped to Walden Pond; and Des Esseintes was appalled by the aspects of life which Thoreau held most dear. Though Des Esseintes and Thoreau were men of the same century, they lived in entirely different worlds from one another; Des Esseintes in a world of expenditure and materialism, and Thoreau in one of essence and simplicity.
Des Esseintes buried himself in a personalized hole of riches because he loathed the human race and sought to obscure himself from his fellow mankind. The disdain Des Esseintes had for the members of his species was directly correlated with his vanity and conceit; he saw himself as superior being, and yet he required constant assistance and care. He regarded the people around him as unintellectual bohemians who were not worthy of his esteemed presence.
Thoreau went to the woods to live pleasantly and simply, he welcomed visitors, and he had many. While Thoreau did find himself to be much wiser than anyone else he had encountered, he was not conceited about it, and did not give up on the world because of it, as Des Esseintes did. Thoreau was intrigued by people, whether they were intelligent, ignorant, wise, or foolish; and spoke to them so that he may gather their thoughts and apply them to his own. At times, Thoreau had a little too much faith in the goodness of his fellow man, as he would leave his cabin unlocked, with what few possessions he had left in plain sight, in consideration of visitors.
Henry David Thoreau did not believe in the imprisonment of men unless they had committed unspeakable deeds, as a result, he associated himself with the abolitionist movement, though he never did take any progressive steps toward abolishing slavery. Des Esseintes saw people as nothing but slaves, tools which he could manipulate to do his bidding. He sought to degrade and use people for his own pleasure and entertainment; this is made clear by the various “experiments” he performed; like the black women he used as decorations, the countless women he defiled, the young boy who’s life he corrupted, and the tortoise he killed with his oppressive splendor. In fact, that one particular act would have angered Thoreau to no end. Des Esseintes failed to respect the tortoise’s natural grace and beauty, took the animal from its rightful place in nature, and pointlessly murdered one of nature’s children for his own sick, gruesome entertainment.
Des Esseintes was extremely sexually promiscuous, and was notorious for having multiple partners in the bedroom. He was a sexual deviant, and was in constant pursuit of a new sexual experience. Des Esseintes tried to make an art of it, by decorating a room with lavish pink materials; he dedicated an entire to room to the enhancement of...