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Thoreau and Walden Research Papers

How do you start a Thoreau Walden research paper? Our expert writers suggest like this:

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 the following:

  • Thoreau was not really socially isolated
  • Walden Pond was only a few miles from his home
  • Thoreau 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.

If one is to base a critique of Walden simply on the facts that are quantifiable within the book, Havelock Ellis points out an even more interesting point when noting that Thoreau was a poor excuse for a naturalist since he lacked basic scientific knowledge of nature. Ellis calls Thoreau’s knowledge of nature like that of a “schoolboy”, one that is “a counting of birds eggs and a running after squirrels”. At best, Ellis asserts that Thoreau did a service to the layman who wishes to find peace with nature but he left his studies there and did a disservice to the naturalist in not keeping his studies scientific. However, I believe Ellis is far to critical of Thoreau’s intent, which was not to be a scientist but to be a man that wishes to point out the parallel possibilities that exist for man in living a life dedicated to nature. Thoreau did not mean Walden to be a guidebook for the ecosystem of ponds; Walden was a guide for the soul of man, as witnessed in nature. It appears to me that Ellis missed the point of Walden.
It is my opinion that Walden is an excellent piece of literature that illustrates man’s connection with nature. Many truths rest within the pages of Walden that inspire me today.


...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  

The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

While I don’t care for the egotistical attitude of Thoreau’s assertions and forced philosophies, I can take from the piece of work a great deal of truth in Thoreau’s call for man to return to nature. Thoreau himself seems jaded and cynical, hence, a poor poster boy for the Walden way of life.

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