Though his work is revered throughout the world today, Henry David Thoreau could achieve only mediocre success during his living years. Even Walden, one of his greatest works, and the basis of people’s ideologies during the Vietnam War and the era of the Civil Rights movement, was met with little success. However, there is no doubt that it was because of Thoreau’s influential writing, and his part in the transcendentalist movement along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, that people in America denounced the logistics of consumerism, capitalism and government policies, and declared themselves owners of their own intellect. This essay discusses in brief the first two chapters of Walden, Economy and Where I Lived, and What I Lived for.
In the first chapter, Economy, Thoreau exalts the benefits of leading a simple life, as he did for two years near Lake Walden. He says that possessions suck people into a circle that deprives people of their inner freedom: not only do they require additional labour to be able to purchase them, but also afflict the person owning them to be plagued with worry for their safety CITATION Tho54 p 6-62 l 16393 (Thoreau 6-62).
Thus, Thoreau asserts that all a man needs in his life are four basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing and fuel. What is more is that all these substances are available in nature’s lap. Therefore, any added attempt at luxury will not lead one to peace, but only to a path riddled with worry CITATION Tho54 p 6-62 l 16393 (Thoreau 6-62).
In the second chapter, Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, Thoreau remembers all the places he nearly settled in before coming to Walden Lake. His sole purpose in doing so, he says, was to live without any restraints that are imposed by a societal structure. He insists that a person should live a free and uncommitted life for as long as is possible CITATION Tho54 p 62-75 l 16393 (Thoreau 62-75).
Thoreau’s delight in this chapter is highly symbolic: by moving into his first house away from the shackles of society, Thoreau deems himself truly independent. He sees of it as a successful completion of his aim of simply being. This chapter shows traces of Emerson’s influence on Thoreau in the latter’s self-reliance, and his absolute delight at being able to remove himself from society. It is a be-all and end-all answer: he lived in Walden Lake, and he lived for the simple things in life. His world was limited to the woods, and the lake, and his old house, and it was all that mattered CITATION Tho54 p 62-75 l 16393 (Thoreau 62-75).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Thoreau, Henry David. “Walden, or Life in the Woods.” Thoreau, Henry David. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers; Walden, or, Life in the Woods; The Maine Woods; Cape Cod. Ed. Robert F. Sayre. Free, Public Domain Edition (printed July 8, 2004). Walden Lake: Internet BookMobile, 1854. 6-75. Web.