Study Guide

Arcadia Man and the Natural World

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Man and the Natural World

"Nature" is a tricky word in Arcadia – what appears natural on the surface is rarely so. Exhibit A is the garden of English manor house Sidley Park, whose style undergoes an extreme makeover as ideas of what "nature" is (or perhaps should be) change over time. Making "nature" subject to popular trends seems kind of, well, unnatural. But it also makes us wonder what other things thought of as "natural" might just happen to be in fashion at the present moment. Arcadia suggests that humans have a bigger role in shaping our understanding of what is and isn't considered natural than we might think.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Hannah says that, "the hermit was placed in the landscape exactly as one might place a pottery gnome" (1.2). Based on what we see of hermit-to-be Septimus, do you agree with her assessment of the hermit situation? If not, how does that affect Hannah's overall argument about the garden?
  2. Are Sidley Park's gardens (of any era) "natural"? Why or why not? (And "natural" in what sense?)
  3. Do the characters most interested in science consider the natural world differently from those who are less concerned with scientific discovery? In what ways?

Chew on This

Bernard's preference for beauty over fact regarding the natural world indicates the danger of looking at the world through a purely artistic lens.

The "natural" is that which is supposedly untouched by human interference. By showing how ideas of the "natural" are actually influenced by fashion, Arcadia questions the possibility of looking at nature objectively.

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