Going Out for a Walk by Henry Maximilian Beerbohm

Introduction

Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm was a master of parody and caricature. He provided numerous readers with reading pleasure with his writings and benign satire. Sir Henry Maximilian (Max, in short) Beerbohm (1872-1956) expresses his unconventional opinions against aimless wandering but is circumspect in his condemnation of individuals who enjoy this pastime. He published a single novel, Zuleika Dobson. He was, nevertheless, a prolific cartoonist. Even George Bernard Shaw lauded him for his wit.

Going for a walk is an essay written by Max Beerbohm in 1918 and published in the essay collection ‘And Even Now’ in 1920. It is a carefully written, witty article about the absurd vanity of going for a walk.

Max’s argument somewhat contradicts the conventional adage, ‘a sound mind in a sound body.’ He approaches walking from a unique standpoint. He explains, with a sense of fun, why he dislikes leisure walking.

Without a doubt, the author is a non-conformist. He is English but despises sauntering, which most Englishmen do instinctively. He speaks against this habit in this essay. He humorously explains why he despises leisure walking.

Summary of Going Out For a Walk

At the outset, Max declares unequivocally that he has never gone on a walk on his own accord. Reminiscing about his boyhood days when a nurse would take him on a walk, he remembered talking endlessly with her, but he had not experienced any excitement even then. He grew up and eventually relocated to London. The metropolis, with its loudness and activity, was hardly the best environment for carefree strollers. As a result, the author received some respite here because he did not and could not go for a walk.

London is well-known for its frenetic appearance, frantic movements, high decibel levels, and dust stirred up by speeding automobiles. It is not a haven for walkers. As a result, walking is not a popular pastime in this city. For these reasons, Max never went for a walk, and no one ever asked him to accompany them. On the contrary, life in the countryside is slow and leisurely. People go for walks unless it is pouring. They ask Max to accompany them instinctively, not comprehending that he dislikes the experience. These walkers believe that walking is a good hobby that stimulates fresh ideas in the brain and rekindles noble notions in the mind. As a result, such individuals believed that asking someone to accompany them on a stroll was a fantastic idea. These walkers, in particular, believe it is their right to force their will on everyone they see sitting pleasantly in an armchair, reading. Max clearly likes to stay at home. Max claims that it is simple to say ‘no’ to an old friend’s proposition. In the case of an acquaintance, however, one must make excuses, the best of which is that he has letters to write. Though Max acknowledges that this particular apology formula has limitations and becomes unsatisfactory in three instances.

Continuing his description of the three scenarios, Max claims that in the first circumstance, most people do not believe it. Second, the excuse of writing a letter causes you to get up from your recliner, walk over to the writing-table, and pretend to be writing a letter. To avoid arousing suspicion, one should remain sitting near the table until the acquaintance exits. Finally, if the proposed walk falls on a Sunday morning, the excuse is a complete failure. The walkers will easily win the argument if they advise that no post is sent out until the evening. As a result, one is forced to join them on their walk quietly.

Walking is regarded as a very praiseworthy and exemplary activity by those who like it. They enjoy walking for the sake of walking. Max, on the other hand, disagrees with the idea, claiming that it effectively paralyses the brain. The walk-mongers may argue that their brain works best while walking, but Max has found the opposite to be true. Even the most clever and witty walkers lose their ability to instruct or entertain as soon as they begin walking. Max believes that as a person begins to walk, his creative intellect becomes inactive. He is incapable of thinking, speaking, or even making a joke. He is known to be mentally quite busy while comfortably seated on a chair or even standing near the hearth. Clearly, the mind becomes deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deaf The action of the foot appears to bind the brain. Instead of discussing substantial matters rationally, he participates in trivial vacuous statements that signify nothing. Max gives the example of a walking buddy he cryptically refers to as ‘A.’ On one occasion while walking, ‘A’ stopped thinking and began reading signboards, milestones, and other such stuff that caught his eye along the road.

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Max goes on to say that when ‘A’ sat down for lunch, his mind came back to life. He began to have the same talks, which pleased people and gave the impression that he was a regular man with a normal brain. Max assumed that after the stroll earlier in the day, ‘A’ would never go on another walking expedition because his head had gone numb. ‘A,’ however, headed out on another walking adventure with a different friend, much to his astonishment. Max stares over at them till they are no longer visible. He understands what ‘A’ would say to his pal, that Max is a boring walking companion. Then, with his head in a coma, ‘A’ would devote himself to reading roadside signboards.

Max is perplexed as to why those who go walking for the purpose of walking suffer a sudden and severe degeneration in their mental faculties. He blames it on a clash between the soul and the brain. The soul is something that surpasses reason, and it gives the body the command ‘Quick march.’ The brain, on the other hand, questions the soul’s aim and wants to know where he is sending the body. The walking enthusiast believes, in vain, that walking adds grandeur and character to one’s personality. But, in actuality, the brain remains completely immobile and inert, in contrast to the state of the body, until the body decides to stop walking. Max, on the other hand, believes that it is best to sleep in spare time so that the body can recharge properly.

When a person has to travel to a specific location for business, he intuitively takes a car to traverse the distance. He does not need to use his head to make this conclusion. Unless walking is the best option. During the walk, the brain does no important work other than basic routine tasks. Walking is an option as long as the legs can withstand the pressure. Max claims that the inspiration for this essay came to him while he was out on a walk. In an attempt to clarify his position, Max claims that he does not despise walking and does not go out of his way to avoid exercise. He exercises modestly; walking, for example, is rather excellent for one’s health. But he never goes for a walk without a purpose and prefers to drive whenever possible. According to Max, some people have morbid anxieties about their health and overdo physical exercise to find a solution for all illnesses. Walking is beneficial in moderation. However, finding a purpose to go on long walks, such as seeing a buddy, is a silly pretence.

Paragraph Wise Summary of The Essay

Paragraph one

To begin, the author declares unequivocally that he has never taken a stroll on his own accord. The author recalls his early infancy when a nurse would take him for a walk. He used to converse with her incessantly, although he had not felt any excitement even then. He matured and eventually made his way to London. With its clamour and activity, this metropolis was not the most conducive to a casual walk. The author’s walk-averseness was alleviated here, as he was unable to go for a walk.

Paragraph Two

London is renowned for its frenetic pace, frantic movements, loud noises, and dust stirred up by speeding automobiles. This is not a haven for walkers. As a result, walking is not a popular pastime in this part of the world. As a result of these factors, the walker never went for a walk and no one invited him. On the contrary, rural life is relaxed and leisurely. People go for strolls unless it is pouring. They instinctively invite the author along, unaware that the latter is less than enthusiastic about the event. These walkers believe that walking is a noble hobby since it stimulates the brain and rekindles noble sentiments. With such ingrained beliefs, many believe that requesting assistance is a prudent course of action. Naturally, the author wishes to remain at home. He justifies his absence by explaining that he has letters to write and hence cannot go for a stroll. However, this type of alibi is not without its drawbacks.

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Paragraph Thee

Initially, there is a void. Individuals, on the whole, are sceptics. Second, it compels you to up from your seat, walk over to the writing-table, and behave as if you are actually composing one. You must remain sitting near the table until the friend exits, in order to avoid creating suspicion.

Paragraph Four

It might be a delightful pastime for individuals who have made awakening their habit. However, the author believes that rather than enhancing brain function, it actually dulls it. Numerous acquaintances of the author have reported similar mental slow down when walking. However, those of the author’s pals who succeeded in luring him out on Sundays cannot claim that going for walks activated their brains. The author is believed that once a person learns to walk, his or her creative mind becomes inactive. He is incapable of reasoning, speaking, or even laughing. He is known to be quite productive mentally while comfortably sitting in a chair or even standing near the hearth. Obviously, the mind becomes deafeningly silent and empty. The feet’s action appears to immobilise the brain. Rather than discussing important matters rationally, he engages in meaningless trivial comments. The author illustrates this point with the example of one such walking partner, whom he cryptically refers to as ‘A’. On one occasion, when A was walking, he ceased thinking and began reading signboards, milestones, and other such stuff that caught his eye along the road.

Paragraph Five

When ‘A’ sat down for lunch, his mind regenerated. He began speaking and amusing people, and he assumed the appearance of a regular man with normal intellect. The author believed that ‘A’ would never venture out on another walking adventure following his brain’s numbing experience earlier that day. To the author’s amazement, ‘A’ resumed his walking adventure with a new partner. The author continues to observe ‘A’ and his companion until they vanish from view. He is aware of what his friend ‘A’ would say. Nothing more than the observation that the author is a tedious walking companion. Then, when the brain was in a state of lethargy, ‘A’ would begin reading roadside signs.

Paragraph Six

The author is perplexed as to why individuals experience such brain inactivation when they first begin to walk. He assumes that if a guy is aware of the risk, his mind’s capacity for reasoning and analysis will motivate him to walk. With no explanation for such an inexplicable desire to go for a stroll, the author surmises that possibly a person’s spirit prompts him to do so. The erroneous assumption of the walking enthusiast is that walking endows one’s personality with dignity and character. The author, who is still sceptical, dismisses the obsession with walking and opts to spend the time in bed, deep in slumber. Until the body and brain decide to rise anew, they remain completely immobile and inactive. In other words, the author believes that it is prudent to sleep during downtime in order to refresh the body properly.

Paragraph Seven

When a person is required to travel to a specific location for work, he or she is compelled to take a vehicle. He is not required to use his reasoning abilities in making this choice. Unless you are absolutely determined to walk, this is the proper course of action. The brain will cease all major functions, except for minor routine ones, during the stroll. Walking is an option if the legs are capable of withstanding the strain.

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According to the author, the essay’s ideas came to him on a walk. According to the author, he is not the one who despises walking and prefers to travel by automobile even for small distances. He maintains that he is not opposed to physical activity. He exercises on a regular basis and as he pleases. Certain individuals harbour morbid anxieties about their health and engage in excessive physical activity in the expectation that it will cure them of their ailments. Walking is beneficial in little doses. However, inventing an excuse to take long excursions, such as seeing a friend, is a silly pretence.

Themes of Going Out for a Walk

Going Out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm explores themes of conformity, escape, conflict, social opinion, and custom. From the start of this article, it appears Beerbohm is addressing the issue of conformity. Beerbohm believes that one should only walk if there is a need or necessity for it. Unlike others, Beerbohm does not feel the desire to flee his life, so going for a stroll is often a futile activity. Due to the character of their walking companion, an individual will be left in conflict with themselves. Beerbohm believes that walking partners should express the obvious and that walking companion dialogues are uninteresting and repetitious. Beerbohm appears to defy societal expectations when it comes to walking.

It is also evident that Beerbohm prefers metropolitan life to country living. People do not go for a leisurely walk in the city. There is no space or pure air for walking. This is significant because Beerbohm may be implying that it is safer to stay out of the country than to be pressured by friends and others to go walking. A commitment that makes no sense to Beerbohm. Interesting about the piece is that Beerbohm does not feel free where one would expect to be when out strolling. He also follows social opinion through walking. Refusing to go on a walk with someone for fear of being judged. Some readers may conclude that Beerbohm is in a no-win situation. He agitates himself by strolling. But he refuses to join others in walking. He annoys them and is accused of being a bore. In actuality, Beerbohm dislikes walking and sees no sense in it.

Beerbohm’s view on walking goes against tradition. The English, in particular, have a tradition and love for walking, even if Beerbohm initially dismisses it. It is also notable that Beerbohm does not seem to converse with his walking companions. Beerbohm may be avoiding his strolling partners to show his displeasure with the boredom of walking. Throughout the piece, Beerbohm appears to be content to write letters to pals or sleep. Walking is truly at the bottom of Beerbohm’s list. It is not something he enjoys. As previously stated, Beerbohm considers walking a worthless activity that should be avoided at all costs. This may not be the common consensus of those with whom Beerbohm interacts. For some, walking is an adventure. Even if it appears simple, it is an adventure and should be savoured.

The essay’s conclusion is very interesting. Particularly because Beerbohm admits to writing the piece while out walking. Rather than being unproductive, this is an ironic exhibition. As Beerbohm saw it. Beerbohm had a productive walk. He has managed to express his personal views about walking, especially the bad aspects. Yet, while out walking, he has achieved something positive. It is also worth noting that despite his stroll being pleasant. Beerbohm will not walk unless he is forced to do so. Beerbohm is so resolute that he closes his essay with ‘I will never go for a walk.’ Some readers may question why Beerbohm, despite all his arguments against walking, did not choose to see the benefits of walking. Instead, Beerbohm will continue to violate social customs and opinions. Having a significant dislike for going on a walk.

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