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Thoreau Walden

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The best known work of Henry David Thoreau, Walden is a Transcendentalist reflection on Thoreau’s social experiment in simple living. Thoreau published the work in 1854 after spending two years living next to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Ralph Waldo Emerson, his close friend and another noted Transcendentalist writer of the time, owned the land and encouraged the endeavor.

Thoreau Walden

Walden is written as a journal, chronicling both Thoreau’s philosophical reflections on life as well as mundane details of his daily experience. Some critics point out that Thoreau was not really socially isolated, Walden Pond being only a few miles from his home; indeed, he regularly walked into town to have meals with friends. But the source of this information is Thoreau himself, who made no pretense of striving for anything like modern survivalism.

Although some degree of self-reliance was part of his experiment, Thoreau’s main goal was achieving simplicity in living. He did in fact build the cabin he lived in. Walden has detailed notes about the construction materials even down to the number of nails required. The cabin was small, intended to be only as big as necessary. Thoreau had grown tired of the tendency, even at that point of American history, toward excessive consumption and waste. He used one set of utensils, one plate, and one dented cup to drink from. He may not have been isolated in some remote region, but his manner of living was Spartan by any standard. By reducing the clutter and superfluities in life, he sought to achieve greater focus on what really mattered. Thoreau’s Walden remains an iconic work of American literature with themes relevant even today.

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