"The Battle of the Ants" Analysis

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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…show more content…
He also anthropomorphizes the emotions and motivations of the ant war when he says “[i]t was evident that their battle-cry was ‘Conquer or die.’” He is alluding to human war and the rhetoric and propaganda that are associated with it. As the essay continues, Thoreau manages to make war seem even more insignificant in comparison to the rest of the world by focusing on a single ant. He carefully narrows the scope from the war itself to the actions of individual ants, emphasizing the irrelevance of war. “In the meanwhile there came along a single red ant on the hillside of this valley… whose mother had charged him to return with his shield or upon it” (575). Thoreau continues expanding upon this idea of anthropomorphizing the ants to make their comparison to humans that much more explicit. According to Thoreau, this red ant observes the battlefield, the size of the opposing ants, and decides when to dive into battle, something a human in the middle of a war would do. Accompanying the meticulous description of battle, Thoreau offers a sense of hope to the otherwise futile outcome of war when the ants collide: “and so there were three united for life, as if a new kind of attraction had been invented which put all other locks and cements to shame” (576). While discussing the destructive inevitability of war, Thoreau includes this line to acknowledge the
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