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Henry David Thoreau and His Transcendental Experiment

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1 Henry David Thoreau and His Transcendental Experiment

2 Henry David Thoreau If Ralph Waldo Emerson was the philosopher of Transcendentalism, Thoreau was its most devoted practitioner. While Emerson wrote and lectured about Transcendentalism, Thoreau tried to live as a transcendentalist.

3 Early Education Unlike Emerson, grew up in a middle class family with a significant amount of wealth. Also attended Harvard and graduated in 1837.

4 Early Career Worked as school teacher.
Contracted Tuberculosis, a disease he fought all his life. Had a short stint working in his father’s pencil factory.

5 The Lecturer and Rebel As an independent thinker, Thoreau became the head of the Concord Lyceum organizing lectures where he met Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau eventually worked as a handyman and caretaker of Emerson’s estate while Emerson spent long stints studying abroad in Europe.

6 The Walden Experiment From 1841 – 1843 Thoreau decided to conduct an experiment of self-sufficiency by building his own house on the shores of Walden Pond and living off the food he grew on his farm.

7 Walden Thoreau later documented his experiment in his famous memoir Walden. Famous quotes from Walden: “I went to the woods to live intentionally, to suck the marrow out of life.” (This was quoted in Dead Poet’s Society to initiate each meeting). "A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature."

8 Fact from Fiction While reading excerpts of Walden it may seem Thoreau wrote his novel as a diary while being isolated in the woods, miles from civilization. However… Thoreau often went to Concord to buy supplies. He wrote thirteen drafts of Walden before publishing it. He often had friends visit him in the evenings. He house was built on Emerson’s property.

9 Civil Disobedience Another work that was a result of Thoreau’s Walden Experiment was his essay Civil Disobedience. Thoreau wrote the essay while spending the night in jail after refusing to pay a tax that would help fund slavery in the South. Civil Disobedience has been a highly influential work that has inspired peaceful activists such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Famous Quote: “If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

10 Thoreau and Emerson Myth
It is said while Thoreau was in jail Emerson came to visit him and the following conversation took place: Emerson: “Henry David what are you do in there, you should be living your life, not rotting in jail.” Thoreau: “Ralph Waldo, why are standing out there doing nothing.”

11 Thoreau’s Late Life and Death
Though Thoreau never made a substantial living as a writer, his collection of writing consist of over twenty volumes. Thoreau’s only trip abroad was to Canada in 1861 where he had another lapse of Tuberculosis. On May 6th, 1862 Thoreau died losing his fight to the disease. Emerson later published a collection of Thoreau’s poems in 1865.

12 Please Stand for Think on Your Feet

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