In chapter two of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, entitled "Where I Lived, and What I Lived for", there are two themes that run throughout the narrative. The key theme that emerges continually is that of simplicity with the additional theme being that of freedom. Thoreau finds himself surrounded by a world that has no true freedom or simplified ways, with people committed to the world that surrounds them rather than being committed to their own true self within nature.
Simplicity is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as a simple state or quality; freedom from complexity; absence of elegance and luxury; uncomplicated. In the world today, many people think that an iphone or computer watch may make their world simple, but these technologies only make the world we live in more complex. Somehow there is confusion between simple and easy. It is most certainly easier to phone someone from your car rather than pulling over to a pay phone and getting out a quarter. It is also easier to put a letter in the fax machine rather than addressing an envelope and putting a stamp on it and walking it to the mailbox. These two instances that have been described are, in fact, easier, but not simpler. Simple is not having to figure out how to use the cell phone or fax machine and, at the same time, having these two items cluttering our space. Fewer people communicate through cards and letters now because we have e-mail and fewer people go to the library because we have the Internet. These are great items and they may make life easier, but not simpler.
Thoreau craves the unsophisticated way of life. He agrees that too much stuff does not make life simpler, but more congested.
The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense. (6)
By calling the internal improvements external and superficial, Thoreau is saying that these improvements do nothing for the nation but cause more anguish and headaches. A person might think that they could make themselves better by buying fancier clothes or getting an expensive haircut, but what does that really do for the internal self? When all improvements are made, a person only has an expensive hair salon bill, department store bill and a lot of clothes that only make the person look good to other people. These improvements, within the nation, could be considered stores, restaurants, highways, cinemas, gas stations, and factories. These are things that are supposed to make our life simpler and freer, but they are just more developments that bind us. These improvements,...