Walden, in fullWalden; or, Life in the Woods, series of 18 essays by Henry David Thoreau, published in 1854. An important contribution to New EnglandTranscendentalism, the book was a record of Thoreau’s experiment in simple living on the northern shore of Walden Pond in eastern Massachusetts (1845–47). Walden is viewed not only as a philosophical treatise on labour, leisure, self-reliance, and individualism but also as an influential piece of nature writing. It is considered Thoreau’s masterwork.
Walden is the product of a two-year period when Thoreau lived in semi-isolation by Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. He built himself a little cabin and was almost totally self-sufficient, growing his own vegetables and doing the odd job or two. It was his intention at Walden Pond to live simply, to have time to contemplate, walk in the woods, write, and commune with nature. As he explains, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” The resulting book is a series of essays, or meditations, with titles such as “Economy,” “Sounds,” “Solitude,” “Visitors,” “Higher Laws,” “Brute Neighbours,” “Winter Animals,” and “Spring.” Thoreau’s style can at times be ponderous, but it is well worth the effort for the pearls of wisdom contained therein, which are often quoted: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,” and “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”
Relatively neglected during Thoreau’s lifetime, Walden achieved tremendous popularity in the 20th century. Thoreau’s description of the physical act of living day by day at Walden Pond gave the book authority, while his command of an elegant style helped raise the work to the level of a literary classic. For readers concerned about the advent of a fast-paced, quick-fix society marked by excess, materialism, and superficiality, Walden’s message will perhaps seem more relevant and necessary now than when it appeared more than a century and half ago.
Back to Nature in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Essay
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In Walden, Henry David Thoreau explains how a relationship with nature reveals aspects of the true self that remain hidden by the distractions of society and technology. To Thoreau, the burdens of nineteenth century existence, the cycles of exhausting work to obtain property, force society to exist as if it were "slumbering." Therefore, Thoreau urges his readers to seek a spiritual awakening. Through his rhetoric,Thoreau alludes to a "rebirth" of the self and a reconnection to the natural world. The text becomes a landscape and the images become objects, appealing to our pathos, or emotions, our ethos, or character, and our logos, or logical reasoning, because we experience his awakening. Thoreau grounds his spirituality in the physical…show more content…
Thoreau's main concern is that the accumulation of wealth, and the desire to obtain it, distracts humans from recognizing their true essence, which is spirituality. In the chapter "Economy," he urges us to learn to live life by ourselves, without the pressures of monetary consumption, and reevaluate ourselves in order to obtain its true necessities. He states, "It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what the gross necessaries of life are and what methods have been taken to obtain them" (9). Thoreau reduces the necessaries of life to four things: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. Anything beyond these four necessities serves as a wall dividing physical from spiritual realities.
In agreement with Thoreau, an anonymous author explains how human existence separates from its essence due to a preoccupation with financial prosperity. In the National Anti-Slavery Standard, an obscure anti-slavery newspaper from 1854, the author states, "The life exhibited... teaches us that this Western activity of which we are so proud, these material improvements, this commercial enterprise, this rapid accumulation of wealth, are very easily overrated" (8). Thoreau understands the harmful effects of modernization and relinquishes his responsibility to society in order to discover his connection with the natural world, and shows us how to achieve the same through his