Henry David Thoreau The Conformist Vs

Henry David Thoreau , The Conformist Vs. The Individual Essay, Research Paper The Conformist, the Individual, and Henry David Thoreau In Walden, written by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau describes how he

Henry David Thoreau , The Conformist Vs. The Individual Essay, Research Paper

The Conformist, the Individual, and Henry David Thoreau

In Walden, written by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau describes how he

lives his life simply and believes that this is the key to living life to the fullest.

However, I found while reading the passage that his outlook on living out ones life

seemed to me to have both its high points as well as its low points. At first I

thought that Thoreau was trying to conform people to his way of life. However,

the more I read the more I began to understand the point that Thoreau was trying

to get across. He wasn t trying to make people be like him , he was merely giving

his own life as an example of how not to live in such a rush to be like others and

try to do more than is necessary to enjoy oneself. He preached not of conformity,

but of individuality, and believed living simply and worrying only of pleasing

oneself was the key to living life to the absolute fullest. The debate that this arises

here is what is to be considered doing more than necessary to be happy. There are

a few aspects that Thoreau deals with in Walden that I found to be important in the

discussion of living ones life. These main points are work, study, and individual


In Thoreau s discussion of work he points out that he tried jobs such as

teaching as well as trading. However, these jobs were not pleasing to him because

he was doing them simply as a livelihood and not for enjoyment of the work he

was doing. He goes on to say that he feels that he only needs to do as much work

as he has to to get by, about six weeks in one year according to him.(824) I look at

this attitude about work as just being lazy. Of course I also strive to have a job that

I enjoy and would not be happy otherwise. Thoreau obviously does not have a line

of work that he would actually enjoy doing as some people do. However, he also

points out that he does not wish for fine things in life but welcomes anyone that

does to strive for them. This shows that he is accepting of what other people may

prefer over what he does. Although he takes note to other peoples preferences

here, there are other times that he cannot see beyond his own view of life.

Another important aspect that Thoreau covers is education, or study time.

He devotes much of his time to studying and believes that it is important to be

educated in a variety of things. Although he preaches simplicity he doesn t

consider studying to be work that is unnecessary. Some people however, may

consider education to be overwhelming. The thing that I don t quite understand is

the way that Thoreau is educated in so many things yet does not go out and

experience all of the things that he is so educated in. This is really the only thing

that I don t understand about Thoreau. He is so educated yet he lives his life in

such seclusion.

Having individual views is a main point that Thoreau stresses. This is the

whole reason that he went to live in the woods in the first place. He says that he

went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately .(835) He feels that by

him secluding himself from society and being one with nature he can fully get

everything that life has to offer. By not being consumed with trying to conform to

societies social needs he feels that he will not be burdened with all of the pressures

that society can influence. Thoreau does not wish for anyone to adopt his way of

living because he says before they have learned it I may have found out another

for myself .(825) I feel that this is an important quote do to the fact that it

somewhat allows Thoreau to contradict himself. Case and point, Thoreau says that

he desired that every person be careful to find out and pursue his own way .(825)

However, Thoreau preaches simplicity. Thoreau believes that if everyone lived life

simply and enjoyed every minute of life that there would be no need for all of the

technological advancements and improvements that society has to offer. Everyone

would be content with themselves and there would be no need for such things

according to Thoreau. This is somewhat contradicting his earlier statement. I have

to disagree with his view on this. I think that technological advancements are

important. There is no reason to say that some people do not enjoy finding

advancements in technology. His idea of living a simple life may be appealing to

him, however their are other people that enjoy experiencing other things in the

world. The idea of living to make ones self happy seems like the more ideal way to

live. This is a point that Thoreau stresses, however, he does this by promoting

simplicity. Being an individual requires having different preferences of such things

as leisure time than others do.

After reading Walden I was brought to a realization that living life to the

fullest has nothing to do with what might be accepted or not accepted in society,

but on the other hand, have to do with what different people enjoy doing in their

own lives and what makes them happy with themselves. The more I thought about

the matter the more I began to think that possibly the reason some people are

unhappy with life is because they are trying to model their own lives after others

or perhaps focusing on what other people generally accept to be high points in life.

Although Thoreau is one for individuality, there are some things that he points out

in his work that are strictly that of his own individualism.