Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Henry David Thoreau Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

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  • Pages: 10

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) was an American writer and philosopher famous for his naturalistic and anarchical ideas as well as his adherence to the movement of transcendentalism. Thoreau was a vegetarian, actively stood against slavery and war, and was one of the first who supported Darwin’s theory of evolution. Among his many works, the best known are his essay, Civil Disobedience, a proclamation against injustice and an urge for individual opposition to civil government, and the book ‘Walden’, where Thoreau’s reflects his personal experience of living simple life in natural environment.

Although these works, like many others of Thoreau, are considered ‘transcendental’ and had been published ages ago, the ideas and concepts they contain may still at some point be related to the issues we may face while living in the 21st century. In general, the core of transcendental beliefs is a faith into a perfect spiritual state of mind that transcends both empirical and physical. It can only be realized through the person’s intuition, not through the doctrines of any existing religions. Therefore, it is rather a philosophy then a religion.

The transcendentalism was grounded on principles that are ‘transcendental’, i. e. based not upon sensual experiences but upon inner feelings and empirical, spiritual essence of a human. (En. wikipedia. org) American transcendentalism was mainly dominating in the first half of the 19th century, encouraging to abandon our mundane world, establish close relationship between human and nature, and to concentrate on ideal existence through spiritual abundance and self-reliance. Henry David Thoreau was admitted as a co-founder of this movement not only for his great thoughts on transcendentalism, but also for his empirical ideas and personal practice of his beliefs, which was greatly illustrated in his most famous book, ‘Walden’.

The book firstly released as ‘Walden, or Life in the Woods’ (1854) was later widely recognized as one of the best non-fictional works of American authors. Living amidst woodland that belonged to R. W. Emerson, his friend and another founder of transcendentalism, near Concord, Massachusetts, in the small unpretentious self-built cabin, Thoreau mainly aimed to isolation from society for its better, more objective understanding. He stayed there alone for almost two years but kept receiving and returning visits. For example, he often went to Emerson’s hоuse for meаl and conversаtion.

Moreover, as he indicates in the book, the cabin was located ‘at the edge of town’, not in the wilderness, even not far away from his family home. Therefore, he focuses reader’s attention on the importance of human’s closeness to the nature, self-reliance and meditation. The book combines Thoreau’s autobiography with a criticism of society, namely American consumerism, materialism, and nature destruction, – the issues still common in our century as well. Such experiment of cut-off living was made by Thoreau for special purposes.

First, he tried to escape the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution through keeping agrarian lifestyle. Interesting fact, – the experiment was of a temporary character, and in the book Thoreau strongly advises his readers to avoid repeating it. Thus, anyone who studies Thoreau’s works has to keep in mind that at some degree they should be approached philosophically rather than understood literally. Second, the writer wanted to practically experience the main transcendental belief that every individual can transcend from normal to divine by means of nature itself.

Like other members of the movement, in the ‘Walden’ Thoreau, for example, speaks about Vedic concepts to illustrate his vision of the nature. “I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! There I meet the servant of Brahmin, priest of Brahma, and Vishnu, and Indra, who still sits in his temple of the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water-jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges. (Thoreau 221)

At some point, Thoreau’s attempts to promote the ideals of transcendentalism may seem to be impractical and rather inapplicable. In fact, after an in-depth analysis, Thoreau’s ideals may even look infeasible, namely his appeals to ascetic way of living and refusal of common human needs. In the scope of critical thinking, impossibility to follow the idea of living without any blessings of civilization is rather obvious. The average American who lives in the 21st century can hardly imagine him- or herself without Internet connection, using cell-phones, driving cars, or going to supermarkets. Nevertheless, it is possible at certain degree.

Moreover, due to global ecology problems, it even may become necessary for each of us to refuse some advantages of our daily welfare for the great purpose of saving the world from environmental catastrophe. For this reason ‘Walden’, as well as many other Thoreau’s works, is frequently quoted by specialists who work in various fields and are concerned with the environmental problems of the Earth in general and in the USA in particular. While the whole issue of bad ecology becomes more and more crucial, Thoreau’s idea of simple life in the forest turns out to be not as unsuitable as it seemed at first glance.

It is important to mention that Thoreau’s works on natural history is a great anticipation of findings and methods in the fields of ecology and the history of environment, which later became main sources of nowadays movement of environmentalism. In the book ‘Earth Rising: American Environmentalism in the 21st Century’ we read that “some 150 years ago, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, sitting in his tiny cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, was already mourning the loss of the wilderness and the debilitating effect of industrialism on the human spirit”. (Shabecoff 16)

Thoreau significant influence onto the entire concept of nature preservation and conservation is unquestionable. “In the United States… the movement expanded in the 1800s, out of concerns for protecting the natural resources of the West, with individuals such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau making key philosophical contributions. Thoreau was interested in people’s relationship with nature and studied this by living close to nature in a simple life. He published his experiences in the book ‘Walden’, which argues that people should become intimately close with nature.

The conservationist principles as well as the belief in an inherent right of nature were to become the bedrock of modern environmentalism”. The conservation movement is a political, social and scientific movement that aims to protect natural resources, including plant and animal species as well as their habitat for the future. Chiefly in the United States, conservation is seen as differing from environmentalism in that it seeks to preserve natural resources expressly for their continued sustainable use by humans.

In other parts of the world conservation is used more broadly to include the setting aside of natural areas and the active protection of wildlife for their inherent value. (En. wikipedia. org) Because of Thoreau and his associates humanity became truly concerned about the nature, the world we live in. He can definitely be called a pioneer ecologist. Numerous contemporary movements and organizations prove the actuality of environment problem and therefore significance of all Thoreau’s works related to nature preservation.

For example, his vision of the environmental issues in the 19th century became a ground for the book ‘From Walden to Wall Street: Frontiers of Conservation Finance’ written in the current times. “Why do we invest in conservation? Why do human beings invest their time, energy and financial resources in protection of land, plants, and animals? We invest in conservation because it is an expression of our faith in the future. Conservation investment is an expression of our faith in the future of natural systems that are essential to life on Earth.

It is an expression of our faith in the future of deeply loved natural wonders. And it is an expression of faith in the future of our families and communities whose lives will be immeasurably enriched by the living world that we are striving to sustain”. (Levitt 3) Here is one more evidence on how outstanding were the Thoreau’s works and what a great impact they made and still do. In ‘Walden’ he included a famous aphorism that “in wilderness is the preservation of the world”.

Thoreau kindled the Wilderness Religion that found fertile ground in America and provided a spiritual basis for conservation. In ‘The Main Woods’ (1864) Thoreau called for the establishment of national forest preserves, helping to set the stage for the National Park movement. (Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature 6) Despite of the fact that Walden is considered by some critics a failed experiment, the issues raised in the book are still of current importance. As 21st-century people, for instance, we suffer of consumerism and globalization, with their negative ethical aspects.

Thoreau’s prophetic awareness of them is amazing, they are as relevant now, as they used to be in his century. He rejects consumerism, its adverse effect on society with its status stratification, and still teaches us lessons vital for our survival and progress. Another kind of ideas Thoreau often promoted in his works are related to anarchism and civil disobedience. Thus, let us shift our attention to this theme of Thoreau’s writings and discuss how those fit in the American viewpoint of the 21st century.

In his disobedience to the American low of his times he was as prominent as in his attempts to bring humanity closer to the nature. He certainly was a key figure in the American radicalism. Disobedience was the main point in his endeavors to justifу morаl anаrchism and to encourage each individual to act on the basis of their personal judgments, their personal opinion about the very justice rather than civil regulations. Unfortunately, Thoreau offers nothing instead and relies of his personal sеnse of justice, which is univеrsal.

Here is the historical background of the essay. “’Civil Disobedience’ is an analysis of the individual’s relationship to the state that focuses on why men obey governmental law even when they believe it to be unjust. But ‘Civil Disobedience’ is not an essay of abstract theory. It is Thoreau’s extremely personal response to being imprisoned for breaking the law. ” Because he opposed slavery and because tax revenues contributed to the support of it, Thoreau decided to become a tax rebel. He was arrested and imprisoned.

It was short as a one night but has had enduring effect through the writing of ‘Civil Disobedience’ which has exerted its powerful force over time. (McElroy 2) In accordance with Thoreau’s ideals, the government of his days was far from perfection due to Mexican-American war and slavery expanded in the US. Therefore, the essay was written as anti-slavery and anti-war protest soon after the war’s beginning. Thoreau later wrote about governmental justice. “If it is of such a nature that requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

Let your life be a counter friction to stop he machine… Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison”. (Thoreau 259) In the essay the author urges American citizens to show their disagreement to government by passive disobedience without acts of violence. Such form of protest was later used by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who initiated movements for social changes. Thoreau was emphasizing the importance of acting upon the person’s ethical and moral beliefs.

According to Thoreau, “unjust law exists: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? ” This urge to disobedience is in tune with the message of ‘Walden’. Those who are not satisfied with the society should not obey its norms, and neither wait until the norms are changed, nor until the majority joins them, but live according to their own believes. Personal values should be compared to the ones of the contemporary society, and unless they comply, stick the voice of conscience.

Thoreau also said that “it costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the state, than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case. ” (Thoreau 258) In fact, many of the issues pinpointed by Thoreau 150 years ago have not yet been overcome by the American society, and that strikes the most. He hated its slavish materialism as well as commercialism and believed that “the state should never rank above the individual conscience or the business of living.

But if the state demands a person’s first allegiance by asking him to violate his conscience and participate in an injustice, the person should disobey – not through violence but by removing his cooperation. ” (McElroy 3) Thoreau foresaw many issues typical to the modern American society. Over 150 years ago he predicted the crisis, spiritual and moral, that now corrodes it. The writer still begs us to slow down our hectic lives, to review our values, and to live in harmony with our consciences. He repeatedly talks about the possibility to establish a society where the justice is appreciated and the beauty of the nature is preserved.

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Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Henry David Thoreau Essay
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  • University/College:
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  • Pages: 14

Henry David Thoreau

“Simplify! was Thoreau’s motto” in his life (Stanley 20). He showed people how to live simple life by living a simple life in Walden. Due to Thoreau’s efforts and works on nature people considers a nature an important part in their lives, as a result nature became one of the top topics in 21st century.

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts (Meltzer 11). His parents were John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau (12). Henry had three siblings named Helen, John Jr. and Sophia (12). The Thoreau family continuously moved to different places in search for better living conditions (11). Henry’s father John had difficulties finding a job (13). He eventually started a very famous pencil making business (13).

Henry’s parents named him David Henry Thoreau, “after his uncle David Thoreau” (Stanley 16). Thoreau changed his name to Henry David Thoreau (Olson 14). He changed his name because “people called him Henry” (Stanley 16).

Henry and his siblings went to same school (Stanley 16). First, they went to school called “Concord’s Public Grammar School” (16). At his school all students for all grades, “sat together on hard benches” (16). Although Henry’s family could not really afford a private school, Henry still went to private school named “Concord academy” (16). He went to Concord academy from age eleven until sixteen (16). He was very quite child at school, as he often did not play games with children (Olson 30). Henry had many nicknames like “Judge” and “the fine scholar with big nose” (30-32). These nicknames came from children at his school because he did not join in their play (30-32).

Since he was born, he was very interested in nature and natural phenomena (Olson 33). At age eleven, he wrote famous piece of writing about seasons (Meltzer 15). The writing about the seasons stated like this: The Seasons

Why do the seasons change? And Why
Does Winter’s stormy brow appear?
Is it the word of him on high?
Who rules the changing varied year? (15)

Henry went to Harvard University for college education (Olson 34). He was not interested in going to college as he barely passes his entrance exams for Harvard; he thought he might work as a carpenter (34). In college, his interest in writing and poetry grew especially with poems of English poets such John Milton, William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer (35). In Harvard university, William Ellery Channing became Henry’s one of the best friend (35). Later Henry realized that William Ellery Channing was the one who helped him towards his writing (35). In college, Henry started to read many books from college library (Stanley 17). On August 30, 1837, Henry graduated from Harvard University (Olson 37).

After graduating from Harvard University Henry did not knew what to do for living (Stanley 18). He was usually was call upon to do land surveying but he thought it was not a great profession although he had a skill to do land surveying (17). Ralph Waldo Emerson was Henry’s great friend and mentor as Henry got many ideas from Emerson towards his writing (Olson 9). Emerson also allowed Henry to live in his house until Henry has some job to do (Stanley 18). While living with Emerson, Henry was introduced to,” Concord’s elite circle of writers and philosophers” (18). While living with Emerson, Henry thought, he needed to do something in order for living so he did, “odd jobs like gardening and fence mending” (8).

Emerson held informal meeting at his house in which the group of writers and philosophers were welcomed to attend (Olson 27). Henry was also present during these meetings (27). Transcendentalists were the people who used to attend these meeting (Stanley 18). They talked about topics such as political, cultural and regional etc (Olson 27). These Transcendentalists were concerned about, “society’s materialism” (Stanley 18). “They believed each person is born with an inner voice, or conscience, and those who live simple lives, close to nature, can hear the inner voice more clearly” (18). These Transcendentalists people keep their journals with them for writing their ideas and works (19). The Transcendentalists influenced Henry so much that he came up with this famous quote, “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 he hears however measured or far away” (19).

After college, Thoreau gave many lectures in Concord Lyceum (Stanley 87). On April 11, 1838, Thoreau made his first lecture in Concord Lyceum (Olson 43). His topic of first lecture was “Society” (43). On 1838, Lyceum elected Henry as secretary and curator but due to various reasons, he only held these positions until December 1840 (43). Thoreau wrote and read many lectures about Nature while working in Concord Lyceum (Stanley 8). Thoreau disliked slavery as in Concord Lyceum he lectured against it in his lecture, “Slavery in Massachusetts” (Woodlief).

Thoreau also supported John Brown efforts in ending slavery as he told in front of Concord Lyceum in his lecture, “A Plea for Captain John Brown” (Woodlief). Henry David Thoreau gave nineteen lectures in Concord Lyceum (Stanley 87-88). Henry was not paid anything for lecturing in Concord Lyceum (88). When Emerson said town and people of Concord Lyceum about fees people started giving fees (88). Due to Emerson help, fifty dollars was paid to Thoreau because of his lectures that he spoke (88). Thoreau’s fees in Concord Lyceum were always low (88). Thoreau did not care about fees in Concord Lyceum, as he only wanted to help people and show them right path (88).

In 1847, Thoreau worked as land surveyor (Meltzer 86). Thoreau was appointed surveyor-in-chief by Concord (86). As a surveyor-in-chief, Thoreau has to do many jobs such as, “to lay out roads, walk the bounds with town officials, and supply the technical documents for lawsuits involving his craft” (86). Thoreau left his land surveying paper after his death. (86). His land paper were so complete that it included every farm in town (87). Most of Thoreau’s surveys were made between 1849 and 1861 (87). According to Meltzer the survey made between 1849 and 1861 were about two hundred. These surveys are still found in Concord Free Public Library (87). Thoreau was able to make more than one hundred and fifty land surveys (87).

Most of the Thoreau’s surveys were made in Concord but some were in different cities (87). Even modern land surveyors who use modern technologies and tools appreciate Thoreau’s work (87). They said his work as a land surveyor was phenomenal (87). Modern surveyors made surveys of Walden Pond could not disproves, “Thoreau conclusion” about Walden Pond, “made only from a string and a stone” (87). Thoreau as a talent land surveyor he made the map of Walden (Olson 80). Thoreau was very conservative when it came to land and because of him, government made the, “National Park Service (NPS) in 1916” (81). The National Park Service was more than fifty million acres (81). It, “became important part of America’s conservative effort” (81). The National Park Service “preserves natural resources and save the nation’s forest for future generations” (81).

After studying in college, Henry David Thoreau tried to teach schools in Concord (Stanley 18). After two weeks of teaching schools, Henry David Thoreau was fired because, “he was expected to flog children if they were bad” (18). So as a teacher Henry David Thoreau was not successful”(18).  After college, Thoreau also worked in his father’s pencil making business (Woodlief). Although Thoreau worked in his father’s pencil, making business he really did not wanted to join him in his pencil making business due to various reasons (Stanley 18).

In 1838 Henry’s brother John and he himself, “took over Concord Academy” (18). In Concord academy they started to teach students as they,” introduced many new ideas in education” (18). In Concord academy, “John and Henry took students for weekly nature walks to observe animals and plants so that they would learn through discoveries and firsthand experience” (18). Henry and his brother were very profitable in running Concord Academy (18). The academy closed in 1840 due to John’s sickness (18). The Concord Academy was very successful when John and Henry ran it (18).

In 1843, when Henry David Thoreau was twenty-six years old, “he believed he was ready to make literature his profession” (Meltzer 53). Henry’s first writing work came in the periodical named Dial published by Hedge Club (Olson 48). In his first work, he wrote a poem named “Sympathy” (48). The poem was about Thoreau’s friend Edmund Sewall, “a young friend whose free and pure spirit Thoreau admired” (48). Margaret Fuller was the first editor of Dial (48). She remained editor of Dial from 1840 to 1842 (50). Tension between Thoreau and the editor Margaret Fuller began as later Margaret Fuller rejected many essays and articles written by Thoreau (48).

Margaret Fuller also rejected Thoreau’s essay, which was about, “four-day walk Thoreau took with Fuller brother, Richard” (48). Thoreau was rumored to like Margaret Fuller and wanted to marry her (48-50). In 1842, Emerson became editor of Dial as a result Thoreau’s essay was more published in Dial (50). Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay on nature in an edition of Dial called “Natural History of Massachusetts” (50). In 1844, Thoreau wrote his last essay in the edition of Dial (97).

In 1839, Henry and his brother went for a trip together (Olson 53). Their trip was to sail from Concord River to Merrimack River (53). For going on this trip, they needed transportation system, so they made a boat called Musketaquid (53). Musketaquid is a Native American name for Concord River (53). The boat they made was fifteen ft in length and three feet in width. This trip provides material was Thoreau’s book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (53). On the trip Henry went with his journal to write down ideas and notes about the trip (Stanley 15). Henry David Thoreau published his notes for the book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers ten years after the trip (16). During the trip, the friendship between Henry and John grew, as they became more and more close (Olson 55).

For the past few years, Henry and John used to hate each other, as they wanted to marry same woman named Ellen Sewall (55). Although Henry wanted to marry Ellen Sewall, he never got married to anyone (6). In 1849 Henry’s, book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was published. The book was not that popular when it was published as only two hundred twenty copies of that book was sold when it was published but in the modern times the book got more and more popular (53). Shortly after the trip, Henry’s brother John died on January 11, 1842, from lockjaw, which was caused by cut while John was shaving (Woodlief). After John’s death Henry was, “freed to become what he really wanted to be: a writer who embraced the transcendentalist notion of the self-reliant man” (Olson 57).

On July 4, 1845, when Thoreau was 27 years old he started living near Walden Pond (Stanley 20). The Walden Pond became the sight of his famous book Walden or Life in the Woods (Olson 58). Henry David Thoreau admired Walden Pond and it beauty when he was very young (Burleigh 6). Thoreau book Walden or Life in the Woods was based on the beauty of nature as many of Thoreau’s work came from nature (6). Near Walden Pond, “he often walk and sees the animals, river and trees, all beauties of nature and writes it’s down in his journal” (6). Walden or Life in the Woods was a book that described lifestyle of Henry after returning from Concord to Walden Pond and how he spent his life near Walden Pond (Olson 60). Near Walden Pond Thoreau built up his own cabin (Woodlief).

Thoreau’s cabin was built on the land owned by Emerson (Woodlief). While living in Walden Thoreau did extensive amount of reading and writing (Woodlief). While living in Walden Thoreau looked up the nature very closely (Woodlief). While living in Walden Thoreau just saw the nature all day long (Burleigh 10). While living near Walden Thoreau, “wanted to get so close to nature that he became one with it” (10). Henry went to Walden because he wanted to prove himself (14). “He wanted to show that someone could live very, very simply” (14). Thoreau went to Walden, as he wanted to enjoy his life (16).

Thoreau didn’t like any luxuries in his life, as he wanted to be as simple as he could (16). At Walden, he lived very simple life as he with only forty-seven dollars he provided himself with food, clothing and shelter (Olson 60). In Walden, Thoreau made a desk for himself in which he wrote Walden or Life in the Woods and his famous essay “Civil Disobedience” (Meltzer 85). Thoreau got his intelligence from, “natural world and the experiences of his life” (13). Walden or Life in the Woods was the last book that he published and it was the last book published before his death (61). Walden or Life in the Woods was not that popular on its publication and did not make a lot of money but it was one of the famous works of American literature (12).

After returning from Walden Thoreau had very tough time in Concord (Olson 65). Henry David Thoreau got imprisonment for not paying his poll tax for last several years (66). He refused to pay his poll taxes because he was against Mexican War as he thought it was another way to extend slavery in U.S (Meltzer 77).Sam Staples was the constable who arrested Thoreau (66). Sam offered to give money for Thoreau but he rejected (Olson 66). Thoreau got so angry that he asked Staples to quit from his job as a constable (66). Thoreau was surprised to find out the conditions of jail in which he was (68). He said, “it was the neatest apartment in town” (68). While Thoreau was in the jail, that night a woman came and paid poll taxes for Thoreau (Meltzer 76). The woman who came neither told who she was nor shared her identity (76). Some people thought that woman who came was the Thoreau’s aunt Marla (76).

When Thoreau was free to go, he refused it and was “mad as the devil!” (77). In the jail, Thoreau started to write his essay called “Resistance to Government” later called “Civil Disobedience” (77). Many of Thoreau ideas in his essay were shares by many abolitionists (Olson 71). As always Thoreau essay got little popularity in the beginning (Meltzer 79). In 1866, four years after Thoreau’s death his essay was renamed as “Civil Disobedience (79). In his essay he said, “that a law should be respected not because it is a law, but only if it is just and right. If unjust laws exist, civil disobedience, such as refusing to pay taxes, is an effective way to oppose and change them” (80). Thoreau thought there were two types of laws, conscience laws and government laws and “when these two laws conflict, it’s citizen duty to obey the voice of conscience rather than that of government” (81).

Many people were influenced by Thoreau because his essay “Civil Disobedience” and not paying his poll taxes (“Part Way with Thoreau”). Among these people were two great leaders known as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. (Meltzer 81). As people were influenced by Thoreau, during Vietnam War four hundred and forty eight writers didn’t pay their poll taxes and protested against them (“Part Way with Thoreau”). During their protest, they had two major points (“Part Way with Thoreau”). The first point was, “None of us voluntarily will pay the proposed ten percent surcharged or any war designated tax increase” (“Part Way with Thoreau”). Their second point was, “Many of us will not pay that twenty three percent of our current income tax which is being used to finance the war” (“Part Way with Thoreau”).

In Thoreau’s last twenty years, he began his observation about vegetation in Concord (Gray). Thoreau’s goal was, “to find God in nature” (Gray). Henry got his goal about nature from his mind and from Emerson (Gray). After leaving Walden, Thoreau tried to find scientific things in nature (Gray). In 1999, Thoreau book Wild Fruit was published (Gray). The book was imprint because of Thoreau’s friend Bradley Dean (Gray). The manuscript of this book was “neatly stacked and wrapped at time of his death” (Gray).

The manuscript of the book was lost many times because of change of owners of Thoreau’s house and due to it bad handwriting (Gray). This book was written as Thoreau took notes on each plant in order, which they grew (Gray). In that book, the sentences were mainly poetic (Gray). In the book, he asks people to pay close attention to fruit grown by nature (Gray). In the book he take stand against destruction of environment especially wilderness (Gray). The advised Thoreau made during the book was to, “let us try to keep the New World new” (Gray). His advised is being taken a century later (Gray).

After writing this book Thoreau traveled to Main Woods and Cape Cod very often as traveling there he was interested in Native American and their frontiers (Woodlief). In 1860, Thoreau got a cold as the symptoms of tuberculosis such as cold created problems for him (Olson 84). Tuberculosis also created problems for his family as Henry’s elder sister who was a schoolteacher died of tuberculosis (Meltzer 12). Even with cold, he lectured in lyceum in Waterbury, Connecticut (Olson 84). Thoreau’ cold felt worse after the lecture “as he found that his deepened into bronchitis” (84). Later his cold and health got much worse (84). On May 1861, he planned to go to trip to Minnesota in order to study plants (84). The trip was not fully completed due to Thoreau’s bad health (86).

Thoreau thought his end of his live was very near (86). In September 1861, he made his last visit to Walden (86). On November 3, 1861, Thoreau made his one last final entry in his journal (86). Thoreau last words before his death was, “Moose and Indian” (Woodlief). Henry David Thoreau died on May 6, 1862 at the age of forty-four years (Meltzer 145). Henry left his essays and his two books after his death (Woodlief). Henry also left his huge journal after his death, which was later published in twenty volumes (Woodlief).

After Thoreau’s death, his friend Emerson and Luisa May Alcott wrote memorials for him (Woodlief). Emerson memorial was, “Emerson eulogy” and May’s memorial was, “Thoreau’s Flute” (Woodlief). “Thoreau is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. The cemetery also contains the graves of authors such as Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thoreau long time friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson is also buried in the cemetery” (Olson 87).

Although Henry David Thoreau was very simple, he gave many things to people in this world that people can benefit from. His works on nature forced people to realize that our nature was something as people benefited from Thoreau’s work almost a century later (Olson 88).

Works Cited

Burleigh, Robert. A Man Named Thoreau. New York: Atheneum, 1985. Gray, Paul. “Unregarded Berries.” Time 29 November 1999. 18 May 2009 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992699,00.html> Meltzer, Milton. A Biography Henry David Thoreau. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2007. Olson, Steven P. Henry David Thoreau American Naturalist, Writer, And Transcendentalists. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2006. “Part Way with Thoreau.” Time 9 February 1968. 5 May 2009 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,844391,00.html> Stanley, Phyllis M. American Environmental Heroes. New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1996. Woodlief, Ann. “Henry David Thoreau.” American Transcendentalism Web. 26 June 2007. 19 May 2009 <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/thoreau/>

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Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Henry David Thoreau Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1470

  • Pages: 6

Henry David Thoreau

Transcendentalism is a very important movement that occurred not only in literature but in life as well. The transcendentalist movement was a movement that was basically the thought of everyone having an over-soul. The over-soul is the thought of a relationship between God, nature, and man. The movement had many different characteristics like individuality, feelings being priority over reason, the fact that nature was divine, and that nature held truths.

Transcendentalists used the truths that they observed in the world and in nature to change the way society was and how people see themselves in the world. Although the idea of a utopia was not successful, the movement sparked a change in literature. Emerson and Thoreau are the two people most associated with transcendentalism. They both wrote essays about their experiences in nature and influenced many other writers to do the same (hence the transcendentalist movement). The transcendentalist thought is especially apparent in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson’s work.

Whitman and Dickenson both show many traits of the movement, but the most apparent trait is individualism. Individualism is often portrayed in Emerson and Thoreau’s work as being equal. Everyone has a soul, inner truth is the only thing that matters, and fulfillment comes from knowing one’s self. In Emerson’s essay Nature, he describes man as being universal and related. In the quote “ . . . that great nature in which we rest . . . that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other.

. . . We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. ” Emerson is saying that all men have souls and that each soul is a part of an even bigger soul, the universal soul. This is basically saying that we are all equal, but at the same time we are separated because we each have a soul of our own. In another essay, self-reliance, he stated “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?

Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood…” In this, he is saying that being misunderstood is being great. This also says that being misunderstood is forgetting what society says you should be or act like and doing what you want to do in order to find yourself and be your own person. By not caring about what others may think about your choices and decisions, you can be your own person and set an example for others to do the same.

Not only was Emerson talking about being an individual, he was also adding a bit about your feelings being more important that reason. Thoreau also writes about individualism in his essays. In Walden, Thoreau writes about the experiences and life of his life. He writes “… if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet success unexpected in common hours. ” This is saying that you should live the way that you want to live and that your inner truth or inner desires are all that matter.

Everyone has inner truth and desires and to live the life that you want to live then you should go for the dreams that you have always wanted to come true. This is a prime example of individualism because everyone has dreams and inner truths about the way that they want to live and it is completely up to them to live the way that they want to live. He also addresses individualism in another essay titled Civil Disobedience. He writes “But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.

Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step towards obtaining it…” In this, he is encouraging people to take a stand for the rights and respect they deserve. In a way, he is telling people to stop ignoring the unfair government and do something about the way you feel. This is showing again how everyone has inner truth and they should do something to change the way the world is to be better. Thoreau wanted the government to change and so he spoke about what he believed to be true.

This is him showing his individualism and encouraging others to speak up as well about the truth that they believed. Like Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman and Dickenson have both used individualism in their works, but Whitman does a better job at portraying it. In Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’, Whitman writes about everyone being equal and having equal opportunities. He states “I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, regardless of others, ever regardful of others, maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, stuffed with the stuff that is course, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine …

” In this quote he is comparing total opposites to each other. This is a way of showing how even the opposites are the same. Regardless of others, ever regardful of others means that others mean nothing to you, yet others mean everything to you. It’s contradicting, but in a way that says although others mean nothing to you, they affect you in certain ways. Everyone affects you, but you are not everyone. You are simply yourself and that is what I get from what Whitman was describing.

In another part of the poem, Whitman says ‘I am as bad as the worst, but thank God, I am as good as the best. ’ This quote stands out because it means no one is better than anyone. Just because you don’t get in trouble doesn’t mean you are any less wrong or less bad. Just because you do good things doesn’t mean you are any better! Being good is simply being good and the same goes for being bad. No one is any better or worst. This means that everyone is equal and has equal opportunities. Dickenson also uses individualism as a theme in some of her works as well.

In the poem ‘Heaven Has Different Signs—To Me’, Dickenson writes “The Rapture of a finished Day—Returning to the West—All these—remind us of the place, That Men call “paradise”” In this poem Dickinson is describing what heaven would be like. This quote refers to the end of the day for men. Individualism is living the way you want and reaching fulfillment. This quote shows how men are fulfilled in their lives and of what they call paradise. To me, I don’t think she is writing about heaven, I think she is writing about a utopia. She is writing about a place that everyone is equal and enlightened.

Dickinson and Whitman both write about being equal and living the life that you want to lead. Even though they both write about individualism, Whitman portrays it much more and it is more apparent. They were both influenced by the transcendentalist movement, but Dickinson focuses on other traits like how nature is beautiful and simple and the relationship that nature, life, and death have. The transcendentalist movement may be over, but it left an imprint in literature. Many people speak of individualism and the name most associated with it in the movement is Walt Whitman.

Works Cited Poemhunters. com. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. “Quotations by Author. ” Walt Whitman Quotes. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Thoreau, Henry D. “Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. ” Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. Jone Johnson Lewis, n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. N. p. : Jalic, 2003. Print. Whitman, Walt. “(1836)Nature. ” Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oregon State College, n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Whitman, Walt. “Self Reliance. ” Mrgunnar. net. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

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Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Henry David Thoreau Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 597

  • Pages: 2

Henry David Thoreau

“When Nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it. ” This is a quote from one of the most famous transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Transcendentalism was a movement in the 19th century. It was a religious and philosophical movement the focused on self-reliance and the nature around us. Some of the main philosophers in the movement were Ralph Waldo Emerson who is known for his book Nature, Henry David Thoreau with his book Walden, and also Margaret Fuller who wrote Women in the Nineteenth Century.

Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are the most influential philosophers from transcendentalism, many of their ideas are still used in modern day transcendentalism. Transcendentalism started in New England during the first half of the 19th century. It started as a religious movement but later became an entire philosophy. Transcendentalists apposed the Calvinist idea of predestination. They also believed in the unity rather than the Trinity of God. Transcendentalism ideals are composed of Hindu texts, and various religions. It became a major cultural movement with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s publishing of “Nature” in 1836.

A year later he wrote his speech “The American Scholar” which closed by calling for a revolution of the human consciousness to form a new idealist philosophy. By the 1840’s Emerson believed the movement was dying out, until a second wave of scholars came, which included Henry David Thoreau. Henry David Thoreau was the most influential philosopher to come from transcendentalism; his philosophies are still used today. He was an abolitionist. He was part of the Underground Railroad. He is often described as an anarchist because of his belief in individualism, and government should be limited.

Thoreau believed non-violent protests were more effective than riots; this was the thought behind civil disobedience. This idea has been used by multiple political leaders; leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi in India, Leo Tolstoy in Russia, and also Martin Luther King in the United States. This is why Thoreau is considered one of the most influential thinkers out of the Transcendentalism Movement. His fame spread by the writing of his book Walden, this was his idea of simple living in harmony with nature. Some of his ideas are used by modern day environmentalists.

Many of Thoreau’s ideas are still used today, which further proves that he is one of the most influential transcendentalists. Although transcendentalism is a movement from the 1800s, many of the ideas from it are still used today proving it is still alive and thriving. Thoreau’s ideas of Civil Disobedience have been used to change the world. Many people throughout the world also use his ideas for environmentalism that were published in his book “Walden” from 1854. Some people may ask, “Where’s Waldo? ” Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced nearly every transcendentalist thinker.

Many of his ideas are still used today such as his idea of self-reliance, and his contributions to mysticism. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau have contributed a lot to transcendentalism, which still thrives today. Although these two thinkers are the most influential there were many other philosophers that contributed to transcendentalism. Margaret Fuller wrote the book “Women in the Nineteenth Century” which was very important to the way women were viewed at the time. Transcendentalism is still thriving today, and it will for a long time.

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