He says that he would often view these people the same way as if he was taking in the sights of nature. The village was its own environment with its own unique details and facets just like the forest. He compares the way that the men and women of the village gossip to one another to the way prairie dogs congregate together in their burrows. These animal imagery all serve to dispel the notion that humans are of a higher order than animals, and reinforce the idea that most people are in slumber and reveal only the animalistic, coarse aspects of themselves. A story written by Washington Irving relates to this chapter in its imagery of prairie dogs to characterize people.
Washington Irvings story is a satire that uses comparisons to prairie dogs to reveal mans frivolity and hubris. Both stories use prairie dogs to characterize man, especially their tendency to gossip with one another. Using animal imagery often helps convey an idea because it simplifies the characters so that most people will understand the idea. This is best exemplified with Animal Farm by George Orwell in his satire on the Russian Revolution.
By using animals, he could associate distinct characters to certain animals in an easy to understand way. Both Washington Irving and Thoreau also used this literary device for the same reason in their works.