Exploring Frontiers of Thought in Walden
In his world-famous thought-provoking novel, Walden, Henry David Thoreau presents his readers with a simple, inspirational guide for living. Written beside the beautiful Walden pond and completely surrounded by an unencumbered natural world, Thoreau writes about his own relationship with the beauty that surrounds him. His book provides an outlet for everyone to learn from his lessons learned in nature, whether they be city-dwellers or his own neighbors. One of Thoreau's most prominent natural lessons running throughout his novel is that of his deeply rooted sense of himself and his connection with the natural world. He relates nature and his experiences within it to his personal self rather than society as a whole. Many times in the novel, Thoreau urges his readers to break away from their societal expectations and to discover for themselves a path that is not necessarily the one most trodden. He explains that everyone should "be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought (341)." Walden inspires its readers to break out of the mold of tradition, away from outwardly imposed expectations, and out of the loyalty to society over loyalty to oneself in order to find truth and self in nature.
One way that Thoreau urges his readers to find their true selves is making one's self the most important aspect of one's life. He does this by disregarding public opinion in favor of private opinion. He says, "Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate (110)." In other words, society's opinion pales in comparison with one's own self opinion. "To be by yourself and experience life without anyone else telling you different is a way of life (Robin Yost)." While Thoreau does value the company of others, he is not changed or affected by the expectations or opinions of others. Many readers might be shocked when reading that Thoreau was imprisoned for a short time for not paying taxes, but one might also realize that he did not agree with the state's "buying and selling men, women, and children, like cattle at the door of its senate-house (232)." Thoreau is a man to which a good overall "private opinion" of himself was not only important, it was imperative. He asks his readers to "Direct your eye inward [and not to society] and you'll find one thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered." Thoreau believes that the inhabitants of this world have better things to do than worry about the opinions of others. He implies that the people of the world would be more successful if given freedom from society's expectations.
Thoreau finds this freedom from "public opinion" in nature. He writes this book in hopes that its readers will begin to see themselves as inhabitants of the...