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Henry David Thoreau Essay

1280 words - 6 pages

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817 in Concord Massachusetts. Thoreau grew up in poverty; his dad was unsuccessful and had trouble maintaining a steady job. Thoreau followed in his father’s footsteps, ultimately bouncing from job to job, scorned by society for his unconventional way of living and lack of income (Henry David Thoreau, Discovering Biography). Thoreau began to write with the guidance of Ralph Waldo Emerson who became one of the most important influences in his life. Living with Emerson gave Thoreau insight and inspiration on how to write, and eventually led him to write Walden (“Henry David Thoreau, Discovering Biography”). Walden was also inspired by Transcendentalism, a literary movement that challenged the use and need for material objects and evidence. Transcendentalism provided Thoreau with a different view on humanity and religion. Thoreau wrote Walden to document his years spent living at Walden Pond and to express his ideas on the simplicity and individual nature of humanity.
Walden is a series of loosely strung together essays that chronicle Thoreau’s experience of living on Walden Pond in Concord. Thoreau condenses his work into one year, capturing all four seasons on the pond. Thoreau wrote Walden with the intent to use his experience of living on Walden Pond as a way to convey his ideas on humanity. He believed that in order for humanity to be truly satisfied with life, expectations must be lowered from what people want to what people actually need (Swirski). To prove this point, Thoreau wrote about how he established his home by building a cabin for himself and farming to generate income. Frequently, Thoreau refers to the unimportance of material things, and how he has a certain freedom that people that live within societies confines do not have the privilege of experiencing (Swirski). Thoreau did not write Walden because he wanted the reader to go out and experience nature the way he had; Thoreau knew that this was a very impractical way of living. The reason Thoreau wrote Walden was so that readers could take his ideas of simplistic living and apply them accordingly and appropriately to their own lifestyles (Swirski).
Walden’s main themes and ideas embody the Transcendentalist literary movement. Thoreau proves in Walden that although society may feel overbearing and laden with heavy responsibility, there are not set rules on life that each person must follow. Each person may do whatever they please. It is society and its glorified version of material things that make people think that they have to always be one step ahead, when in reality it does not matter. Walden was written to point out the irony that people are possessed by their possessions (Swirski). Thoreau wanted to prove that a life that is led simply can be more fulfilling then a life led by an obsession of material things (Swirski). This idea of the simplicity of human nature was one of the main ideas of Transcendentalism; Thoreau’s work was...

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