Walden

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Walden Visitors Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Thoreau says that he is no hermit and that he loves society. He entertained many visitors while living at Walden, as many as 25 or 30 people at a time. When his small house didn't give their ideas enough room, they simply went out to the pine woods behind the house. If he had only one visitor, he offered a modest dinner; if any more than that, he did not offer dinner, and it was no offense against hospitality, as he believes it a mistake of society to rest one's reputation on the dinners one gives. He says that when the man who became the Plymouth Colony governor visited an Indian leader, he was served a paltry dinner and had insufficient accomodations, because that is what the Indians had to offer.
Thoreau's love of solitude does not take away from his appreciation of the company of men. When he entertains guests, he finds a way to fold them into his lifestyle: he entertains them outdoors, treating nature as a part of his home; he offers a simple dinner, or if that is not possible, he gives only what he can offer, his companionship, and does not worry about damaging his reputation according to a belief in hospitality which he regards as one of society's pretensions.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Solitude and Society Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Once, Thoreau spent some time with a Canadian woodchopper (he chooses not to print his name), a simple man, healthy and stout, who interested Thoreau because he was content in his quiet and solitary life of chopping trees and hunting animals. "In him the animal man chiefly was developed," Thoreau writes. "But the intellectual and what is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an infant." When Thoreau asks him philosophical questions, the man responds with simple, sincere answers that Thoreau appreciates, and Thoreau can't decide if he is very wise or very ignorant, writing, "there might be men of genius in the lower grades of life."
Thoreau appreciates the Canadian woodchopper in the way he appreciates the "savages," as someone who has become self-reliant, freed himself from the traps of society, and created a fulfilling life out of simplicity, work, and union with nature. In the woodchopper Thoreau sees a lack of intellectual development, but Thoreau is willing to acknowledge that even in ignorance the man may have his own sort of higher existence and, possibly, wisdom.
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
Among Thoreau's other visitors include those who ask for water (he points them to the pond); a man who announces he is simple-minded and whom Thoreau greatly respects because of his humility; poor guests who ask for hospitality and are turned away because "objects of charity are not guests"; runaway slaves, one of whom Thoreau points north; children; men of business; reformers; ministers; and many others.
Thoreau feels distaste toward his guests who fail to be self-reliant and fondness toward those who lack pretensions. Mostly, in his solitary life, people merely pass through.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Solitude and Society Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon