Thoreau, Henry David Essay, Research Paper
Thoreau, Henry David
The battle was raging. The two races were pitted against each other in a
fight to the death. The ground was already littered with the wounded and
dying. One pair was locked together as they tumbled over and over. Both were
relentlessly hanging on until one or the other would die. As Henry David
Thoreau watched this battle between Red and Black Ants, he thought about life.
Henry David Thoreau grew up in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid 1800’s. When
he was about sixteen he went to Harvard for his college education. Despite
his Harvard degree, he was considered an outcast because he didn’t do anything
“useful” with his life. He wasn’t interested in making a living in society.
He focused on discovering the “facts of life”. Thoreau moved into the woods
called Walden not far from his home. He felt that being alone with nature
would enable him to think and write more clearly. One of the thoughts that
came from his “higher thinking” was that “Our life is frittered away by
detail”. This quotation is important because it applies to all people, in
Thoreau’s time and in modern times.
Thoreau is saying that all people, rich and poor, young and old, fritter
their lives away with detail, instead of being concerned with the big picture.
The important thing to Thoreau was having time to think about how man fits in
with nature and what his place on earth is. Thoreau believed that man only
needed the basics of food, clothing and shelter. Everything else was a luxury
that took time to obtain. Thoreau thought that time spent getting anymore
than the basics was not time well spent.
Thoreau couldn’t understand why people in his time would waste energy on
things that could become very stressful. For example, the railroads and
telegraphs were crisscrossing Concord. They brought commerce, but they also
brought noise and pollution, and cut up the landscape. There were more goods
for people to buy, but they were unnecessary frills in Thoreau’s mind.
Thoreau wished for a simple life, unfettered by material possessions.
Thoreau’s quotation is applicable in today’s life more than ever. The
appearance of railroads and commerce in Thoreau’s time was the start of the
modern day “rat race”. Thoreau wanted people in his time to realize how much
time they were wasting with busywork and trifles. Today, people are even
worse in that respect than before. With all today’s products, from computers
and cell phones to cereal boxes, there are so many more choices and things to
deal with. People waste time choosing what clothes to wear with which shoes
and so on. Thoreau on the other hand, wouldn’t bother worrying about things
as unimportant as that. Today, we know Thoreau was right, yet few people
actually do forget about the little details.
“Our life is frittered away by detail” is a quotation for all times. Thoreau
was able to block out the trivia of everyday life and explore a broad range of
profound thoughts. He moved to Walden to concentrate on only the basics.
People would criticize him for his “outrageous” ideas, but his ideas actually
weren’t that “outrageous”. Thoreau’s ideas won’t fade away with time. They
will get stronger with time as people yearn for a more simple life and some
freedom from the stress and hassles of having to make too many choices and
understand complicated technologies.