Implications on Materialism from Thoreau's Walden Essay

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In his cutting critique of industrialization, modernization, and society as a whole, Henry David Thoreau explains the relationship between a man’s self and the revealing characteristics of nature as distinctly hindered by the distractions of society and technology. The encumbrances of an industrialized existence and the quest to obtain property force men to live dormant, unaware of the moral and spiritual growth that can be found in nature. Thoreau insists on a spiritual reconnection with the natural world, and alludes to a rebirth of self. He sets his own spirituality in the beauty, that is, actuality, of nature. Through several key metaphors, Thoreau asserts his views onto the reader’s, and dramatically introduces the imagery in his experiences as a contrast to the toil of a modern man.
Thoreau's main concern is that the accumulation of wealth, and the desire to obtain it, distracts humans from recognizing their true essence, which is spirituality. In the chapter "Economy," he urges us to learn to live life by ourselves, without the pressures of monetary consumption. He claims, "It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what the gross necessaries of life are and what methods have been taken to obtain them" (9). Thoreau reduces the necessities of life to several things: shelter, food, fuel, and basic clothing. Items that do not adhere to this meager list are considered by Thoreau to be frivolous.
He writes that the effects of our materialism are so egregious that they have not only infected us with materialism, but also negatively affected the natural world. For example clothing, not the type of clothing adorned by Thoreau, takes the heating mechanisms of animals from them for our sake, despite being unnecessary. He claims, “By proper shelter and clothing we legitimately retain our own internal heat, but with an excess of these, or of fuel, that is, with an external heat...

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