"The Battle of the Ants" Analysis

"The Battle of the Ants" Analysis

Everyone is familiar with the state of armed conflict that is war, and for as long as there has been civilization there has been war. Upon first glance, Henry David Thoreau’s “The Battle of the Ants” seems like a simple descriptive story of a battle between two different species of ants, one red and one black, but if one were to further inspect the text, they could see that Thoreau uses the ants and their battle as a satirical allegory for human conflict. Thoreau chooses to use ants as a metaphor to make it clear to the reader that war is futile, pointless, and a waste of life.
“The Battle of the Ants” begins with Thoreau casually walking out to his wood-pile as he stumbles upon the battle between the red ants and the black ants. After this, he compares these ants to humans, making the allegory apparent from the start. “It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed… On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely” (575). Thoreau uses hyperbole early in his essay to reinforce its anti-war theme as he describes the fighting ants to be in the middle of war. However, he implies that this war is miniscule by reminding the reader of its setting: a wood-yard.
Thoreau goes on to describe an even smaller battle he witnesses between two ants, again, amid the chips, giving more scope to the idea that war is irrelevant compared to the broader schemes of the world. “I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other’s embraces, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at noonday prepared to fight till the sun went down, or life went out… They fought with more pertinacity than bulldogs” (575). Thoreau also manages to include more nuances in this passage, one being a comparison between the ants and bulldogs, in turn, a comparison between human war and the persistent determination of animals, which obviously do not have the extensive mental capacity that humans do. Thoreau is...

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