The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

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Baker Farm: While on an afternoon ramble in the woods, Thoreau gets caught in a rainstorm and takes shelter in the dirty, dismal hut of John Field, a penniless but hard-working Irish farmhand, and his wife and children. Thoreau urges Field to live a simple but independent and fulfilling life in the woods, thereby freeing himself of employers and creditors. But the Irishman won't give up his aspirations of luxury and the quest for the American dream. Higher Laws: Thoreau discusses whether hunting wild animals and eating meat is necessary. He concludes that the primitive, carnal sensuality of humans drives them to kill and eat animals, and that a person who transcends this propensity is superior to those who cannot.

Thoreau eats fish and occasionally salt pork and woodchuck. He also recognizes that Native Americans need to hunt and kill moose for survival in "The Maine Woods", and eats moose on a trip to Maine while he was living at Walden. Brute Neighbors: is a simplified version of one of Thoreau's conversations with William Ellery Channing, who sometimes accompanied Thoreau on fishing trips when Channing had come up from Concord.

The conversation is about a hermit himself and a poet Channing and how the poet is absorbed in the clouds while the hermit is occupied with the more practical task of getting fish for dinner and how in the end, the poet regrets his failure to catch fish. The chapter also mentions Thoreau's interaction with a mouse that he lives with, the scene in which an ant battles a smaller ant, and his frequent encounters with cats.

House-Warming: After picking November berries in the woods, Thoreau adds a chimney, and finally plasters the walls of his sturdy house to stave off the cold of the oncoming winter. He also lays in a good supply of firewood, and expresses affection for wood and fire. Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors: Thoreau relates the stories of people who formerly lived in the vicinity of Walden Pond. Then he talks about a few of the visitors he receives during the winter: a farmer, a woodchopper, and his best friend, the poet Ellery Channing.

Winter Animals: Thoreau amuses himself by watching wildlife during the winter. He relates his observations of owls, hares , red squirrels , mice, and various birds as they hunt, sing, and eat the scraps and corn he put out for them. He also describes a fox hunt that passes by. He says he has sounded its depths and located an underground outlet. Then he recounts how laborers came to cut great blocks of ice from the pond, the ice to be shipped to the Carolinas.

Spring: As spring arrives, Walden and the other ponds melt with powerful thundering and rumbling. Thoreau enjoys watching the thaw, and grows ecstatic as he witnesses the green rebirth of nature. He watches the geese winging their way north, and a hawk playing by itself in the sky. As nature is reborn, the narrator implies, so is he. He departs Walden on September 6, Conclusion: This final chapter is more passionate and urgent than its predecessors. In it, he criticizes conformity: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away", [ citation needed ] By doing so, men may find happiness and self-fulfillment. I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.


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Walden is a difficult book to read for three reasons: First, it was written in an older prose, which uses surgically precise language, extended, allegorical metaphors, long and complex paragraphs and sentences, and vivid, detailed, and insightful descriptions. Thoreau does not hesitate to use metaphors, allusions, understatement, hyperbole, personification, irony, satire, metonymy, synecdoche, and oxymorons, and he can shift from a scientific to a transcendental point of view in mid-sentence.


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Second, its logic is based on a different understanding of life, quite contrary to what most people would call common sense. Ironically, this logic is based on what most people say they believe. Thoreau, recognizing this, fills Walden with sarcasm, paradoxes, and double entendres. He likes to tease, challenge, and even fool his readers. And third, quite often any words would be inadequate at expressing many of Thoreau's non-verbal insights into truth.

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Thoreau must use non-literal language to express these notions, and the reader must reach out to understand. Walden emphasizes the importance of solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in transcending the "desperate" existence that, he argues, is the lot of most people. The book is not a traditional autobiography, but combines autobiography with a social critique of contemporary Western culture's consumerist and materialist attitudes and its distance from and destruction of nature.

There are signs of ambiguity, or an attempt to see an alternative side of something common.

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Some of the major themes that are present within the text are:. There has been much guessing as to why Thoreau went to the pond. White stated on this note, "Henry went forth to battle when he took to the woods, and Walden is the report of a man torn by two powerful and opposing drives—the desire to enjoy the world and the urge to set the world straight", [5] while Leo Marx noted that Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond was an experiment based on his teacher Emerson 's "method of nature" and that it was a "report of an experiment in transcendental pastorialism ".

Likewise others have assumed Thoreau's intentions during his time at Walden Pond was "to conduct an experiment: Could he survive, possibly even thrive, by stripping away all superfluous luxuries, living a plain, simple life in radically reduced conditions? Although Thoreau went to Walden to escape what he considered, "over-civilization", and in search of the "raw" and "savage delight" of the wilderness, he also spent considerable amounts of his time reading and writing.

Thoreau spent nearly four times as long on the Walden manuscript as he actually spent at the cabin.

The writings of Henry David Thoreau

Upon leaving Walden Pond and at Emerson's request, Thoreau returned to Emerson's house and spent the majority of his time paying debts. During those years Thoreau slowly edited and drafted what were originally 18 essays describing his "experiment" in basic living. After eight drafts over the course of ten years, Walden was published in After Walden ' s publication, Thoreau saw his time at Walden as nothing more than an experiment. He never took seriously "the idea that he could truly isolate himself from others".

Walden enjoyed some success upon its release, but still took five years to sell 2, copies, [15] and then went out of print until Thoreau's death in It is often assumed that critics initially ignored Walden , and that those who reviewed the book were evenly split or slightly more negative than positive in their assessment of it. But researchers have shown that Walden actually was "more favorably and widely received by Thoreau's contemporaries than hitherto suspected.

Positive comments included praise for Thoreau's independence, practicality, wisdom, "manly simplicity", [19] and fearlessness. Not surprisingly, less than three weeks after the book's publication, Thoreau's mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed, "All American kind are delighted with Walden as far as they have dared to say.

On the other hand, the terms "quaint" or "eccentric" appeared in over half of the book's initial reviews. While valuing freedom from possessions, Thoreau was not communal in the sense of practicing sharing or of embracing community.

Henry David Thoreau and the Necessity of Conviction

So, communism "is better than our hermit's method of getting rid of encumbrance. In contrast to Thoreau's "manly simplicity", nearly twenty years after Thoreau's death Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson judged Thoreau's endorsement of living alone in natural simplicity, apart from modern society, to be a mark of effeminacy, calling it "womanish solicitude; for there is something unmanly, something almost dastardly" about the lifestyle. He said: "Thoreau's Walden is a capital reading, but very wicked and heathenish After all, for me, I prefer walking on two legs".

Today, despite these criticisms, Walden stands as one of America's most celebrated works of literature.

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John Updike wrote of Walden , "A century and a half after its publication, Walden has become such a totem of the back-to-nature, preservationist, anti-business, civil-disobedience mindset, and Thoreau so vivid a protester, so perfect a crank and hermit saint, that the book risks being as revered and unread as the Bible.

Skinner wrote that he carried a copy of Walden with him in his youth, [28] and eventually wrote Walden Two in , a fictional utopia about 1, members who live together in a Thoreau-inspired community. Kathryn Schulz has accused Thoreau of hypocrisy, misanthropy and being sanctimonious based on his writings in Walden , [30] although this criticism has been perceived as highly selective.

The game was released to critical acclaim on July 4, , celebrating both the day that Thoreau went down to the pond to begin his experiment and the th anniversary of Thoreau's birth. Furthermore, Walden was adapted into an iOS app published by a third party developer. Walden: Life in the Woods is a quick play-through 2D game in which the player can, "explore the woods surrounding Walden Pond and play Thoreau inspired mini games.

Digital Thoreau, [36] a collaboration among the State University of New York at Geneseo, the Thoreau Society, and the Walden Woods Project, has developed a fluid text edition of Walden [37] across the different versions of the work to help readers trace the evolution of Thoreau's classic work across seven stages of revision from to Within any chapter of Walden , readers can compare up to seven manuscript versions with each other, with the Princeton University Press edition, [38] and consult critical notes drawn from Thoreau scholars, including Ronald Clapper's dissertation The Development of Walden: A Genetic Text [39] and Walter Harding's Walden: An Annotated Edition [40] Ultimately, the project will provide a space for readers to discuss Thoreau in the margins of his texts.

Protagonist Sam Gribley is nicknamed "Thoreau" by an English teacher he befriends. Shane Carruth 's second film Upstream Color features Walden as a central item of its story, and draws heavily on the themes expressed by Thoreau. The film Dead Poets Society heavily features an excerpt from Walden as a motif in the plot. The Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish makes several references to Walden on their eighth studio album Endless Forms Most Beautiful of , including in the song titled "My Walden".

The investment research firm Morningstar, Inc. In the video game Fallout 4 , which takes place in Massachusetts, there exists a location called Walden Pond, where the player can listen to an automated tourist guide detail Thoreau's experience living in the wilderness. At the location there stands a small house which is said to be the same house Thoreau built and stayed in. Phoebe Bridgers references the book in her song Smoke Signals. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the book by Henry David Thoreau. For other uses, see Walden disambiguation.

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Wired News. Retrieved August 8, But if Concord was fortunate in numbering him amongst her subjects, he was fortunate in Concord where the meadows were fertile, the hills gentle, the woods hospitable, and where the natural resources were rich without being wild.

For there was a pond in Concord--Walden Pond-- which all the world recognizes now as a masterpiece, and two pleasant rivers flowed through the bosom of the town, filled with fluvial treasures and offering passage to other parts of the universe. Nor was that all Concord had to offer a man of original mind and great personal character. Lying close to Boston.

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An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Excerpt Thoreau was the genius of Concord, where he was born on July 12, Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.