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Henry David Thoreau, The Great Conservationist, Visionary, And Humanist

1940 words - 8 pages

He spent his life in voluntary poverty, enthralled by the studyof nature. Two years, in the prime of his life, were spent living in ashack in the woods near a pond. Who would choose a life like this?Henry David Thoreau did, and he enjoyed it. Who was Henry David Thoreau,what did he do, and what did others think of his work?Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July12, 1817 ('Thoreau' 96), on his grandmother's farm. Thoreau, who was ofFrench-Huguenot and Scottish-Quaker ancestry, was baptized as David HenryThoreau, but at the age of twenty he legally changed his name to HenryDavid. Thoreau was raised with his older sister Helen, older brotherJohn, and younger sister Sophia (Derleth 1) in genteel poverty (The 1995Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1). It quickly became evident thatThoreau was interested in literature and writing. At a young age he beganto show interest writing, and he wrote his first essay, 'The Seasons,' atthe tender age of ten, while attending Concord Academy (Derleth 4).In 1833, at the age of sixteen, Henry David was accepted toHarvard University, but his parents could not afford the cost of tuitionso his sister, Helen, who had begun to teach, and his aunts offered tohelp. With the assistance of his family and the beneficiary funds ofHarvard he went to Cambridge in August 1833 and entered Harvard onSeptember first. 'He [Thoreau] stood close to the top of his class, buthe went his own way too much to reach the top' (5).In December 1835, Thoreau decided to leave Harvard and attempt toearn a living by teaching, but that only lasted about a month and a half(8). He returned to college in the fall of 1836 and graduated on August16, 1837 (12). Thoreau's years at Harvard University gave him one greatgift, an introduction to the world of books.Upon his return from college, Thoreau's family found him to beless likely to accept opinions as facts, more argumentative, andinordinately prone to shock people with his own independent andunconventional opinions. During this time he discovered his secretdesire to be a poet (Derleth 14), but most of all he wanted to live withfreedom to think and act as he wished.Immediately after graduation from Harvard, Henry David appliedfor a teaching position at the public school in Concord and wasaccepted. However, he refused to flog children as punishment. He optedinstead to deliver moral lectures. This was looked down upon by thecommunity, and a committee was asked to review the situation. Theydecided that the lectures were not ample punishment, so they orderedThoreau to flog recalcitrant students. With utter contempt he lined upsix children after school that day, flogged them, and handed in hisresignation, because he felt that physical punishment should have no partin education (Derleth 15).In 1837 Henry David began to write his Journal (16). It startedout as a literary notebook, but later developed into a work of art. Init Thoreau record his thoughts and discoveries about nature (The...

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