Thoreau's Walden: An Appeal for Human Reform

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Thoreau’s Walden: An Appeal for Human Reform Henry David Thoreau was one of America’s first great philosophers. Following in his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson’s footsteps, Thoreau was an avid transcendentalist of the mid-19th century. In his most famous work, Walden, he describes his two-year experiment living in a small cabin on Walden Pond. His dwelling is located about a mile and a half from Concord, Massachusetts, on Emerson’s land. In the book, Thoreau rejects the standard pace of life and reflects on human behavior. He argues many innovative opinions regarding humans’ general ways of life, and promotes an alternative lifestyle to his audience. He calls for people to live simply, love nature, and look inward in order to improve our lives and others’ lives around us. One of the most prevalent themes in Thoreau’s work is the concept of simplicity. Thoreau was heavily influenced by Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which call for a minimalist lifestyle (Chadwick). He claims that if people were to reduce the complexities of life down to the necessities, they would lead happier and more productive lives and have less of a negative impact on the environment. Throughout the first chapter, “Economy,” Thoreau criticizes the American practice of obsessing over every minute detail of gossip, news, and bookkeeping: "Our Life is frittered away by detail…Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” (Thoreau 73) In addition, Thoreau satirizes this way of life by detailing the prices of every piece of material used to build his house and the revenue earned by selling crops. He criticizes the men and women of Concord whose every minute of the day is dictated by clocks and routines, and is dismayed by the

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