Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) Type of Work: Natural history essay Setting Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts; 1845 to 1847 Journal Overveiw (The summer of 1845 found Henry David Thoreau living in a rude shack on the banks of Walden Pond. The actual property was owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher. Emerson had earlier published the treatise entitled “Nature,” and the young Thoreau was profoundly affected by its call for individuality and self-reliance. Thoreau planted a small garden, took pen and paper, and began to scribe the record of life at Walden.) Thoreau’s experiment in deliberate living began in March of 1845. By planting a two-and-a-half acre parcel borrowed from a neighbor who thought it useless, he harvested and sold enough peas, potatoes, corn, beans and turnips to build and to buy food.He purchased an old shanty from an Irish railroad worker and tore it down.
He also cut timber from the woods surrounding Walden Pond. From the razed material, he was able to construct his cabin. He used the boards for siding and even salvaged the nails from the original shack. By mid-summer, the house was ready to inhabit.Thoreau built a fireplace and chimney for heat and cooking. He plastered the inside walls and made sure he could comfortably survive the freezing New England winters, Doing all the work himself and using only native material, the house cost only about twenty-eight dollars to build, less than Thoreau had to pay for a year’s lodging at Harvard. But the main purpose for his experience was to allow time for writing, thinking, observing nature, and learning the “art of living.” I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived .
. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life .. Thoreau also went to Walden with the firm belief that man was too encumbered with material things – too much possessed by his belongings.He believed that a man is rich only “in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
” One passage from Walden tells of an auction, held to dispose of a deacon neighbor’s possessions. Thoreau scorned the affair, referring to the accumulations as “trumpetery” that had lain for “half a century in his garret and other dust holes”: [And now] ..
instead of a bonfire, or purifying destruction of them, there was an auction, of increasing of them. The neighbors eagerly collected to view them, bought them all, and carefully transported them to their garrets and dust holes, to lie there till their estates are settled, when they will start again. When a man dies he kicks the dust. All aspects of life for Thoreau focused on simplicity.
He ate simple meals, his diet consisting mostly of rye, Indian meal, potatoes, rice, a little pork, salt and molasses. He drank water.On such foods he was able to live for as little as a dollar a month. “The cost of a thing,” he reasoned, “is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
” The naturalist seldom ate meat and never hunted. He was far too interested in preserving the animals around the pond: .. Every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher poetic faculties in the best condition, has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, or from much food of any kind. He did eat fish, but considered his time too valuable to spend merely fishing for food.And by following this Spartan ideology, Thoreau was left free to pursue which to him were the important aspects of life; namely, observing, pondering, reading, and writing. In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute, and saw perch, which I seem to haze charged, lowering around me, and the moon traveling over the ribbed bottom, which was strewn with the wrecks of the forest.
While at Walden, Thoreau lived quite independently of time. He used neither clock nor calendar – free to study the local plants, birds and animals: “Time is but the stream I go-a fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.” The only thing that reminded Thoreau of the hectic lives of others was the whistle of the Finchburg Railway train that passed a mile or so away. Though the “devilish Iron Horse, whose ear-rending neigh is heard throughout the town” held a fascination for him, he was glad he was not “chained to commerce,” which the train – that “bloated pest” carrying a thousand men in its belly – represented.The philosopher received some visitors; but they appear to be of little consequence to him, as he failed to even record their names. I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone .. On those occasions when people did come, it was normally one at a time.
And when visitors numbered more than his three chairs could accommodate, Thoreau entertained them in his “drawing room” – the woods surrounding his home. Living in quiet, joyous solitude, Thoreau spent his winter days at the pond, making surveys of its bottom, studying its ice conditions and observing the wild creatures that came daily to drink.At nights he would write down his expansive, whimsical, and thought inspiring philosophies on life: Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? 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 .. Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe ..
However mean your life, is, meet it and live it, do not shun it and call it hard names.The fault finder will find faults even in paradise .. .. The laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day He has no time to be anything but a machine I called on the king, but he made me wait in his hall, and conducted like a man incapacitated for hospitality.
There was a man in my neighborhood who lived in a hollow tree. His manners were truly regal.I should have done better had I called on him..
Let us spend one day as deliberately as nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation .. determined to make a day of it .
. While England endeavors to cure the potatorot, will not any endeavor cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally? ..To the sick, the doctors wisely recommend a change of air and scenery. Thank Heaven, here is not all the world ..
. The universe is wider than our views of it .. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them ..When Thoreau’s two years at Walden had ended, he left with no regrets: “I left the woods for as good a reason as why I went there.
Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one . . . ” His experiment had been a success.He had learned many lessons, had taken time to examine his inner self and his world, and bad proved he could live under the simplest conditions and still be fulfilled: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that as one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to men surely ..
but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in that direction. Upon returning to his cabin some six years after his experiment, Thoreau lamented that he could still distinguish the path he had worn from his door to the pond-side. He feared that others”may have fallen into it, and so helped keep it open … And so with the paths which the mind travels,” he pondered.
“How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!” Commentary Walden, or, Life in the Woods, is a superbly written, imaginative and detailed account. The journal offers an introspective glimpse into two years of one of America’s truly great philosophers and nonconformists. Walden is a classic piece of American literature which still serves as a blueprint for simple, frugal, ethereal living. At first glance, the work may seem nothing more than a crude diary.
But careful reading reveals a complex study comprising the human mind’s attempt to discover both the obvious and obscure behind man’s existence and his place in the natural world.Thoreau’s collection of essays reflects the philosophy of American Transcendentalism in practice. To him, most men live lives of “quiet desperation,” and have need to simplify, to cast off material encumbrances and achieve true freedom. The stages of spiritual evolution that a man passes through all prepare him for the more difficult inner development; and every man, he believed, possesses an inner spiritual instinct which, if nurtured and cared for, will reveal his divine nature. Just before he died, Thoreau made what was considered his most pure yet subtly humorous religious utterance. When asked if he had made his peace with God, he replied, “I was not aware we had quarreled.”.