Walden Essay, Research Paper
The Meaning in Walden
Walden , or Life in the Woods was written during Henry David Thoreau?s stay at Walden Pond, an excursion that lasted over two years. It was here that Thoreau conducted his experiment with life.
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. (Thoreau 835)
Walden, or Life in the Woods is a well-known book admired for it?s meaning. The thing that was so enticing about this story was the knowing of it?s development.
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. (788-799)
These words began Thoreau?s story of his experiment of simple living at Walden Pond, a sixty-two acre body of water in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau chose to build a cabin on land belonging to his close friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson. On this land, Thoreau wrote a series of eighteen essays and journals, “describing Thoreau?s idealistic creed as affected by and expressed in his life at the Pond.” (Hart 797-798).
Most of what Thoreau writes about is based on his first year living by the pond. Things such as his night in jail, trip to Mount Katahdin, and scientific studies of the second year he only touches upon. Each day Thoreau would come up with new thoughts and feelings. He used his mind and listened to his heart to write Walden, therefore every word meant something. Thoreau was very strong in his believing that we should live for ourselves. He believes that we should do things our way rather than copy our parents or anyone else. “I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible” (Thoreau 825). Thoreau influences the reader to choose his or her own personal desires rather than those imposed on us by society. He believes that we should worry more about doing what is right for ourselves, so that we can live for ourselves.
“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself” (834). Through Walden, Thoreau describes his own experience in living a simple life. Thoreau is careful not to recommend his specific way of living to the readers. He merely suggests his simple living as his own enlightenment. He says to his readers “I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account,”(841). Even though Walden does make life seem more understandable, it was not written as a guideline.
“Walden is a book written very directly to its readers, and it intends for them to be provoked into thought” (Error! Bookmark not defined.). In writing Walden, Thoreau turned life into his subject, for which he carefully studied in order for him to understand. Thoreau tries to make his readers think about life and realize how to make life better each day. Thoreau says in Walden, “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts” (Thoreau 835). Whether it is by learning something new or taking new adventures, his idea is to live each day to the fullest. Thoreau wants his readers to understand his words, and sense it?s overall meaning. He wants his readers to take what he thinks and what he learns, and apply it into their own minds as they see it.
Toward the end of Walden, Thoreau describes nature and it?s effects on his own life. Thoreau was a transcendentalist, one who believes in a “higher reality than that found in sense experience” (Encarta 98 Encyclopedia). As a Transcendentalist, Thoreau could relate to nature like no one else. To do this he had to get away from society. The reason Thoreau went out to Walden Pond was to understand questions about his own life. “Walden was to be his personal testament, the essence of all he had observed and put down in his Journal, the bringing together of everything he had felt and thought about” (Stern 7).
Thoreau?s wise perception of nature is seen through his similes, metaphors, and deep descriptions.
We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by
the sight of inexaustible vigor, vast and Titanic feature, the
sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its
decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which last three
weeks and produces freshets. (Thoreau 875)
Thoreau was an expert when it came to nature. His words in Walden show his
compatibility and appreciation to the natural environment.
Thoreau gives no clear order or form in Walden. “The question of its structure has puzzled many critics, with some focusing on the cycle of the seasons as symbolic death and rebirth, and others on whether it is unified in spite of the oppositions it contains” (Error! Bookmark not defined.). Thoreau did not try to write Walden as a story, or a novel with a beginning and an end. It does not have a plot line. It was written as a journal, in which Thoreau recorded his ideas and feelings that existed in his own heart, mind, and soul.
Everyone knows that Walden is about a guy who lived in the woods, but how many know the meaning, or what the message was? Thoreau?s words require the reader to think through some of the basic questions of life that few stop to even
think about. Thoreau encourages a deeper understanding of life. With his words, he is able to satisfy those that may be unsatisfied with their life, but one must read his actual words to get the complete picture.
Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology: American Literature. Shorter Fourth
Edition. New York: Norton, 1995.
Hart, James D. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. 6th Edition.
New York. Oxford University Press. 1983. P. 797-798.
Reading Walden. Ed. Robert Cambell. September 1, 1999. Gonzaga
University. October 26, 1999.
“Transcendentalism” Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation
Van Doren Stern. Philip, ed. The Annotated Walden: Walden; or Life in
the Woods. By Henry D. Thoreau. New York: Clarkson N. Potter,
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