- Year Published: 9 August 1854.
- Pages: 352.
Walden is undoubtedly Henry David Thoreau’s magnum opus. Even up to these present times, one can still learn priceless insights about life from this truly inimitable piece of American literature. It is a book that is essentially a journal and manual, and Thoreau wrote it for with these themes and purposes in mind.
- The inherent corruption of the state.
- The individual’s innate desire to attain spiritual awakening.
- How nature reflects the feelings and emotions of human beings.
- To find man’s place in nature.
- To attain self-reliance.
- To strive for a simpler life.
Chapters 1 to 6
The book aptly starts with Thoreau laying out the reasons for writing the book, answering previous questions about his choosing to live alone in a cabin in Walden Pond, which was owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, for two years. He reiterates the seeming absurdity of most men’s inclination to conform and consign themselves to what is apparently a meaningless existence of consistent work and amassing as much wealth as possible.
In the first few chapters, he expounds on what he did to attain his goals: the building of the said cabin, the planting of vegetables for selling, and finding odd jobs to perform. It didn’t take long for him to realise that just through this simple routine alone, he was able to sustain himself already. On the side, he wrote about the fulfilment that he found when he immersed himself in nature.
He satirised people’s daily routines, criticised industrialisation (which had lead to the destruction of nature), the truly gratifying gifts of his solitude, and bemoaned the fact that most men choose to ignore the pursuit of a nobler life, which was advocated by history’s great thinkers.
He enjoyed the company of a Canadian woodcutter, who visited him occasionally, while he shunned those who question his endeavours, particularly men who are too engrossed in business and progress. That being said, he made the important conclusion that simplicity is the key to living life to the fullest.
Chapters 7 to 15
In chapter seven, he expounds on how he worked on his bean field. He also wrote about the unique fulfilment he felt from dedicating time in working on the field and how enjoyment of one’s work leads to happiness, regardless of the profits he earned from selling a portion of his harvest.
His visits to town weren’t exactly pleasant, though, as he became a consistent subject of gossip, and how their shops and stores only ever serve as temptations to him. He even recounts an untoward incident, which caused him to be jailed for refusing to pay his taxes to a government that is a known supporter of slavery.
Chapter nine marks the start of more in-depth reflections of his experiences in nature. He paints vivid geographic descriptions of his locale, and the succeeding chapter narrates his visit to an Irish blogger named John Field. Thoreau tries to convince him of being able to attain a simpler life with less work; a notion, which is seemingly impossible for the latter.
The next two chapters are more reflective and literary in nature. The former deals with Thoreau’s animalistic tendencies and his resolve to empower his spiritual self, while the latter is a kind of philosophical dialogue between a Hermit and Poet; both represent the author’s meditative and carnal tendencies, respectively.Chapters thirteen to fifteen return to the descriptive style of chapter 7, but this time, they deal with the onset of winter. He makes preparations for it and contemplates the freezing of the nearby pond. See full document