Thoreau 2 Essay, Research Paper
Thoreau and his book, Walden, has been inspirational in my life. Thoreau was stimulated by the natural things he found in life; he shunned the artificial. The manufactured collections that most of us work on through our lives are bogus — and costly: we sweat, we labour, we toil, we worry: and we rarely ask ourselves to what purpose? Happily for Thoreau, and for all of us, a ticket to nature is free. For Thoreau the answer was to live happily and simply. For Thoreau this could not only be done inexpensively, but only could be done, indeed, if one lived simply, with few possessions. The Greek dramatists had a name for living happily and simply, hybris, “insolent prosperity.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) was born at Concord, Massachusetts. He was educated at Harvard, and started out as a teacher. In 1845 he built a cabin at Walden Pond and there lived through the seasons at least for two years. He wrote of his thoughts that he had at Walden Pond, and the result was his book, Walden (1854). At one point, while at Walden Pond, he refused to pay his poll tax; for this act of civil disobedience, he spent a night in jail.
Like his neighbour, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), Thoreau was a transcendentalist, one who believes in the “divine sufficiency of the individual.” To quote Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
Thoreau was out to test his theory that a man might become rich by making his wants few. It is true that just before setting out to exist by himself, much like a hermit, he “had lost the girl he loved, Ellen Sewell, and he had seen his adored brother, John, die in the agonies of lockjaw.” But most believe that Thoreau did not go off into the woods, so to run away from life: but rather to confront it; to determine whether the living of it be sublime or it be mean (he didn’t seem to think that it could possibly be a mixture). Upon moving into his ten-by-fifteen-hut (July 4th, 1845 [he moved out on September 6th, 1847]) Thoreau’s plan was set: experience life and then write about it. Thoreau’s conclusions as contained in his book, one of the world’s greatest books, are important, and, in some ways, essential conclusions about life.
And so, I write of Thoreau’s Walden.1 To you who have read it, I apologize; And to you who have not, especially the ones who foresee fewer years ahead then the number they have already passed, then, I express my delight to think that I might lead another human being, one who is most likely an overworked and troubled human being, to Henry David Thoreau. To my loving Margo, to my family and to every new person who discovers Thoreau, I devote this work and Thoreau’s quote: “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!”
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