Going Out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm
In Going Out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm we have the theme of conformity, escape, conflict, social opinion and tradition. Taken from his And Even Now collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Beerbohm may be exploring the theme of conformity. Beerbohm does not believe in going for a walk for the simple purpose of doing the task (as others do) rather he suggests that one should only really walk if there is a need or necessity to do so. It is also noticeable that Beerbohm does not feel the need to escape from the life he lives as others do and for him the point of a walk can for the majority of times be a pointless exercise. In which an individual if accompanied will only be left in conflict with themselves due to the nature of their walking companion. Beerbohm believing that there is no need for the obvious to be stated by walking companions and that the conversations had on walks are mundane and repetitive. It is as though Beerbohm does not wish to conform to societal opinions when it comes to the matter of walking.
It is also clear to the reader that Beerbohm prefers the city life to any time he might spend in the country. At least in the city people do not go walking for enjoyment. There is neither the space nor the clean air required for walking. This may be important as Beerbohm may be suggesting that it is safer for an individual to stay clear of the country otherwise they too like Beerbohm will feel pressurized by friends and others to go walking. A commitment that is utterly pointless in Beerbohm’s eyes. What is also interesting about the essay is the fact that ironically Beerbohm does not feel free where one is expected to when they are out walking. He also is paying adherence to social opinion by going walking. Rarely refusing somebody who might like to go walking in fear of what the individual might think about him. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Beerbohm is in a no win situation. If he goes walking he upsets himself. Yet if he refuses to go walking with others. He upsets them and is left to answer charges of being a bore. When the reality is walking is simply something that Beerbohm does not enjoy and which he sees no point in.
Beerbohm’s stance with regard to walking does go against tradition. The English in particular have a history and fondness for walking even if Beerbohm originally judges it to be a futile exercise. It might also be significant that Beerbohm does not communicate with his walking companions or at least does not appear to do so. It is possible that by not engaging with his walking companions Beerbohm is mildly protesting or attempting to display his dislike for the monotony that might come with walking. Throughout the essay Beerbohm does not appear to need physical companionship and is quite happy to either write letters to friends or to sleep. Walking really is on the bottom of the list of things to do for Beerbohm. It is something that he does not derive any enjoyment from. As mentioned Beerbohm regards walking as being a pointless exercise and one that should be avoided at all costs. Which may not be the general consensus of the majority of people that Beerbohm engages with. To some they see walking as an adventure. Though it may be seen to be a simple thing it is nonetheless an adventure and should be enjoyed.
The end of the essay is also interesting. Particularly the fact that Beerbohm admits to composing the essay while out for a walk. If anything this is a display of irony as rather than being unproductive. As Beerbohm had viewed walking. Beerbohm has had a productive time while out walking. He has managed to give his personal opinion on the subject of walking, particularly the negative side of it. Yet he has managed to achieve something positive while out walking. It may also be significant that despite achieving something positive from his walk. Beerbohm has no intention of continuing to go walking unless need dictates that he should. So steadfast is Beerbohm that he ends his essay with the words ‘I will never go out for a walk.’ Which may leave some readers wondering as to why Beerbohm despite all his arguments against walking would not decide instead to see the positives that can be found in going out for a walk. Instead Beerbohm will defy social conventions and social opinion and remain as he always has done. With a strong distaste for the idea of going out for a walk.