Walden (Google eBook)

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Mercer University Press, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 325 pages
1204 Reviews
This is one of the most important works by the most important American philosopher: Henry David Thoreau, vital figure in the Transcendentalist movement, hero to environmentalists and ecologists, profound thinker on humanity's happiness. First published in 1854, Walden collects the penetrating reflections from the two years Thoreau lived in solitude on the shores of Massachusetts' Walden Pond. In lucid, poetic prose, Thoreau ponders the beauty of living simply and in communion with nature. It is a work of pastoral magnificence and wisdom that has moved generations of readers. Writer and philosopher HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-1862) was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard University. His writings on human nature, materialism, and the natural world rank him among the most influential thinkers of American literature.
  

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Love his writing style. - Goodreads
Older English, hard to read. - Goodreads
The beginning was great, gripping even, with his prose. - Goodreads
Boring, both as a thing to do and as a book plot. - Goodreads
Great advice on simple living. - Goodreads
The book is full of insight, it is easy to understand. - Goodreads

Review: Walden

User Review  - Hbksmile - Goodreads

Unfortunately I am reminded of how many people read this book and how little impact it has created. Read full review

Review: Walden

User Review  - Tom - Goodreads

I've read this more times than I can count now and it's still fascinating even when Thoreau gets it wrong. Read full review

Contents

Economy
3
Lived What I Lived For
79
Reading
97
Solitude
127
The BeanField
152
The Ponds
170
Baker Farm
197
Brute Neighbors
219
HouseWarming
233
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
250
Winter Animals
265
Spring
292
Conclusion
312
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

In September 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne noted this social encounter in his journal: "Mr. Thorow dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character---a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know." Most responses to Thoreau are as ambiguously respectful as was Hawthorne's. Thoreau was neither an easy person to like nor an easy writer to read. Thoreau described himself as a mystic, a Transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher. He is a writer of essays about nature---not of facts about it but of his ideals and emotions in its presence. His wish to understand nature led him to Walden Pond, where he lived from 1845 to 1847 in a cabin that he built. Though he was an educated man with a Harvard degree, fluent in ancient and modern German, he preferred to study nature by living "a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." Knowing this, we should beware of misreading the book that best reflected this great experience in Thoreau's life: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). It is not a handbook of the simple life. Though there are elements in the book of a "whole-earth catalogue" mentality, to focus on the radical "economic" aspects of Thoreau's work is to miss much in the book. Nor is it an autobiography. The right way to read Walden is as a "transcendental" narrative prose poem, whose hero is a man named Henry, a modern Odysseus in search of a "true America." Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1846, exactly two years, two months, and two days after he had settled there. As he explained in the pages of Walden: "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went to live there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Growth, change, and development were essential to his character. One should not overlook the significance of his selecting July 4 as the day for taking possession of his residence at Walden Pond, a day that celebrates the establishment of a new government whose highest ideal is individual freedom. In terms of Thoreau's redefinition of the nation-idea, "the only true America" is that place where one may grow wild according to one's nature, where one may "enjoy the land, but own it not." Thoreau believed that each person should live according to individual conscience, willing to oppose the majority if necessary. An early proponent of nonviolent resistance, he was jailed briefly for refusing to pay his poll tax to support the Mexican War and the slave system that had promoted that war. His essay "On Civil Disobedience" (1849), which came from this period of passive resistance, was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi (who read it in a South African jail) as the basis for his campaign to free India. Martin Luther King, Jr. later attributed to Thoreau and Gandhi the inspiration for his leadership in the civil rights movement in the United States. Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835 and suffered from it sporadically afterwards. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly The Maine Woods and Excursions, and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He died on May 6, 1862 at age 44.

A native of Nashville, Sam Pickering is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut & author of eleven previous books of essays. His most recent collections are Living to Prowl, Deprived of Unhappiness, & A Little Fling & Other Essays.

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