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
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Next, Thoreau makes war seem more ridiculous as he almost regards it as a spectator sport: “…they had their respective musical bands stationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national airs the while, to excite the show and cheer the dying combatants” (576). With this, Thoreau exploits war even further, describing an aspect of it that is comparable to football players and cheerleaders. He then proceeds to overtly state the purpose of his essay, almost facetiously, in case the reader has not yet picked up on it: “I was myself excited somewhat even as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less the difference” (576). This facetious tone is expanded in the next couple of sentences when Thoreau explicitly compares the battle of the ants to humans; he states, “[there is not a fight] in the history of America, that will bear a moment’s comparison with this, whether for the numbers engaged in it, or for the patriotism and heroism displayed” (576). His use of exclamation makes his tone apparent as he proceeds to juxtapose it with the measly three-penny tax on tea Americans once fought for.
In the second to last paragraph, Thoreau creates a paradox as he views all three ants at the same time, returning to a more broad view of the situation, while keeping it under the small, narrow view of a microscope. Eventually, as the battle between these ants ends, Thoreau admits that “[w]hether he finally survived that combat,