Thoreau’s life long theme “The end of life is education.” Intent…life is an experiment in self- education. Experiment in Nature
Thoreau gave up conventional life to live at Walden Pond in a “hut”
As a naturalist According to life long friend, Emerson, Thoreau “saw as with a microscope, heard as with ear trumpet, and his memory was photographic register of everything he saw and heard.”
As a practitioner Thoreau tried to live the transcendentalist philosophies Wanted to put Emerson’s ideas into practice Rejected his schooling and the expectations that came with it (appeared idle) Even Emerson claimed at Thoreau’s funeral that he lacked ambition
In pursuit of his dreams, of an inner reality, he was the self-reliant nonconformist that Emerson urged all people to be.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Clash with society “Civil Disobedience” As a protest to Mexican War and slavery, Thoreau refused to pay taxes and, as a result, spent the night in jail The individual has a moral responsibility to resist immoral acts of the government.
Walden Record of Thoreau’s life (2 years) at Walden Pond condensed into one year 4 seasons as reflection of life –Summer-live more directly with nature; unfinished hut –Autumn-work on walls and fireplace; store up experiences of summer for winter reflection
–Winter-read, meditate, practice self-discipline, and transform experience into wisdom –Spring-rebirth; repeated each year
Thoreau did not recommend others follow in his footsteps. Walden can be read as –Social criticism –Inspiration to self-reform –Observations of nature –Hymn to the possibilities of life Only the individual can say
from Where I Lived, and What I Lived For Thoreau’s method is to move us from small facts to larger truths An unfinished house lets in wind that blows forever (single, unifying spirit) Theme of Walden evident here… –“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Allusion [Iliad]---”fighting with cranes” means wasting our lives on the trivial and the nonessential Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity –Life should be lived more simply and closer to nature to gain a better understanding of the “essential facts of life.” What is the paradox in the last sentence? –A paradox is a statement that reveals a truth although it seems to be self-contradictory and untrue.
from Sounds Learn from nature, not books Simile---grew like “corn in the night.”
Critical Questions from Sounds How was this growth like corn in the night? How does Thoreau view idleness? How do townsmen view it? Why the reference to Puri Indians and their concept of time? What did Thoreau learn about his life in “Sounds”?
from Brute Neighbors Ant metaphor –Epic, heroic quality At the end of this, Thoreau observes that he “never learned which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war…” How is this statement also a comment on human warfare?
from The Pond in Winter Winter a time for reflection How does Thoreau feel about the fisherman?
Spring How do you feel after a long winter? How do you know winter is over? Time for rejuvenation In the return of the sounds, there is hope (optimism in future) Rebirth of soul
from the Conclusion Why did he leave Walden Pond? What are the advantages of poverty? What is the significance of the “bug” analogy? Overall, how does Thoreau feel about his experiences at Walden Pond?
Style and Purpose of Walden Shift in styles to reflect Thoreau’s changing purposes. Short, factual observances when he arrives at Walden Pond on Independence Day (symbolic meaning?) “Brute Neighbors” uses more metaphor, analogy, and allusion –Slow and deliberate description
Opening paragraph of “The Pond in Winter” takes on dream-like state –Longer sentences are reflective –Short sentences for emphasis (ie: Nature doesn’t bother with questions of what-how-when-where) –Pattern: short sentences used at the beginning; longer sentences used as he observes the cold snow and frozen pond short ending sentences
From “The Conclusion” –Rather aphoristic in style –Emphasis of his main point about being true to self to be resurrected using parable about the “bug”