Henry David Thoreau, (born July 12, 1817, Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.—died May 6, 1862, Concord), American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher renowned for having lived the doctrines of Transcendentalism as recorded in his masterwork, Walden (1854), and for having been a vigorous advocate of civil liberties, as evidenced in the essay “Civil Disobedience” (1849). (From Britannica.com)
Walden is a series of 18 essays describing Thoreau’s experiment in basic living and his effort to set his time free for leisure. Several of the essays provide his original perspective on the meaning of work and leisure and describe his experiment in living as simply and self-sufficiently as possible, while in others Thoreau described the various realities of life at Walden Pond: his intimacy with the small animals he came in contact with; the sounds, smells, and look of woods and water at various seasons; the music of wind in telegraph wires—in short, the felicities of learning how to fulfill his desire to live as simply and self-sufficiently as possible. The physical act of living day by day at Walden Pond is what gives the book authority, while Thoreau’s command of a clear, straightforward, elegant style helped raise it to the level of a literary classic.
Thoreau stayed for two years at Walden Pond (1845–47). In the summer of 1847 Emerson invited him to stay with his wife and children again, while Emerson himself went to Europe. Thoreau accepted, and in September 1847 he left his cabin forever. (From Britannica.com)
Why did Thoreau go to Walden? Was he, as some people have claimed, a recluse or hermit?
Would you consider doing something similar today?
What do you think of his claim in the section on “Economy” that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”? Does this equally apply to today?
Have “men become the tools of their tools” as Thoreau claims?
How might we follow Thoreau’s admonition to “simplify, simplify” today?
How does Thoreau’s observation that “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root” apply to his time? To our time?
How might you, or most Americans today, respond to Thoreau’s thought that “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude”? How do you think Thoreau would respond to our constantly noisy world today?
What technology does Thoreau focus on as an intrusion into the peace of Walden Pond? Is there a similar technology you would point to today as being particularly disruptive of society?
In the section, “The Ponds,” Thoreau claims that “a lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.” What aspect of the landscape particularly attracts you?
What is your favorite section or idea in Walden?
(Questions from thenatureloversbookclub.com)