Walden

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The Bean-Field Symbol Analysis

The Bean-Field Symbol Icon
For Thoreau, the bean-field symbolizes man's capacity through work to become self-reliant. The keystone of his meticulous financial records is the money he earns from selling his beans, which vindicates him by showing that it is possible for any man to support himself easily, dignifying his life with work and depending on no one besides himself and nature. Furthermore, the work itself is pleasurable for Thoreau, who looks forward to his time amid nature planting and hoeing in his field.

The Bean-Field Quotes in Walden

The Walden quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bean-Field. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Walden published in 1995.
Economy Quotes

The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

Related Characters: Henry David Thoreau (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bean-Field
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Near his small cabin the woods, Thoreau has planted a small bean-field, and is pleasantly surprised by how fruitful it becomes over the year of harvest. He contrasts this simple, basic farming with the Concord farmers, who – out of greed, he says, but also perhaps just out of custom – use complex methods and a number of different animals to draw greater wealth out of the soil. As a result, he says, they have set up a complicated system of farming that is so expensive that they are forced to always try to extract more value out of their land through even more extensive and complicated methods of farming. In other words, they are stuck in a vicious cycle, rather than being able to live self-sufficiently off of the land.

Once again, Thoreau makes the case that what often passes, in society, for progress and advancement is actually a hindrance to living well, and living a good life. Work is important to him, but the kind of work he promotes is individual and simple rather than extravagant or elaborate. 

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The Bean-Field Symbol Timeline in Walden

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bean-Field appears in Walden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Economy
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
In order to defray his expenses, Thoreau plants a bean-field of couple of acres and makes a modest gain. The next year he does even... (full context)
The Bean-Field
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Thoreau's daily work is hoeing his bean-field, which he says connects him to the earth He remembers that when he was four... (full context)
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Solitude and Society Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Thoreau does his work in the bean-field daily, in the early morning. The pigeons and hawks and other birds that fly overhead... (full context)
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Thoreau harvests twelve bushels of beans from his bean-field and sets out charts of all the money he spent in growing the beans and... (full context)