Walden

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Walden The Bean-Field Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Thoreau's daily work is hoeing his bean-field, which he says connects him to the earth He remembers that when he was four years old he saw this land where he now lives, which he now cultivates and which many peoples before him have cultivated. He doesn't use workers or machinery to work his land, so he says he is more intimate with the beans and takes pleasure in laboring with his own hands.
Thoreau's bean-field represents his connection to nature and his faith in the power of work to enrich him spiritually. This work is a way for him to support himself in a noble and fulfilling way, and he forsakes modern farming inventions in order to connect more closely with nature and with himself.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" 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 while he works, as well as the other animals, offer him "inexhaustible entertainment." From the town on festival days he can hear music and the sound of guns firing, which he says sound "as far away as Palestine." Meanwhile, Thoreau is at war with the weeds that threaten his beans.
He takes pleasure in his daily work amid nature, where he can be so far removed from the concerns of civilized men and live according to his own sense of originality and independence.
Themes
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 harvests twelve bushels of beans from his bean-field and sets out charts of all the money he spent in growing the beans and all the money he earned from selling the beans. He gives advice about planting the beans and advocates for planting different kinds of crops and undertaking new adventures, not following what one's predecessors have done.
Bean farming doubles as a rewarding way for Thoreau to spend his time and as a way for him to make money, but not more than necessary.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Farming, which Thoreau calls "husbandry," has sacred origins and, as ancient poetry reminds us, was once considered a great art. Now, however, pursued with greed and haste by those who want only large farms and lots of crops to sell, it has been ruined, the landscape has been deformed, and the life of the farmer degraded, who "knows Nature but as a robber."
Greedy farming is a particularly heinous spiritual affront to Thoreau both because it represents society's misplaced priorities and because it demeans nature.
Themes
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
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