Walden

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Walden Where I Lived, and What I Lived For Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Where should his house be located? Thoreau considers. He has talked to all the nearby farmers and imagined buying their houses and living there. He believes a place in the country to be best, far from the village. In his imagination, he lays out the plans to many houses and then decides against building them, because he says true richness is leaving things alone.
Thoreau's pleasure in considering where to live is not in the actual acquisition of material goods, to which he is averse, but in the contemplation of what a life could be like there. He seeks a place that is separate from society.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Solitude and Society Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
The nearest Thoreau came to possessing a house was when he intended to buy the Hollowell farm, but then the farmer's wife changed her mind and didn't want to sell. He discusses the virtues of the farm, but in the end is content not to have compromised his poverty by acquiring it, and he says he took with him the beauty of the landscape, which is the best part of the farm.
For Thoreau, being close to nature is the best part of his choice of place to live. Acquiring the material possession of a house is something he must put up with in order to live in nature.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
On Independence Day, 1845, Thoreau begins living in the woods full-time, during nights as well as days. The house, not yet finished, is glorious because it is a part of nature, with the wind blowing through it and the company of birds.
Independence Day has symbolic meaning as the day Thoreau becomes self-reliant and the day that he becomes one of nature's inhabitants.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Thoreau's first impression of the pond, which is sometimes misty in the early morning, sometimes still and clear as when there is a gentle rain, is that it is like a "lower heaven," with the vista and mountains spreading out behind it.
Thoreau's close observation of nature testifies to his profound relationship with it, characterized both by awe of its spiritual greatness and intimacy with its everyday workings.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
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Though men are in the habit of imagining faraway lands, Thoreau finds that his new living place, so close by, has all the glories of nature and made him feel just as far away from his previous life as if he had traveled far.
Thoreau criticizes society's taste for travel because they could be experiencing the full effect of their nearby surroundings, for which he has great respect.
Themes
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Morning is Thoreau's invitation to make his life simple and commune with nature. Every morning he bathes in the pond, calling it a "religious exercise." He calls morning the time that all important events, including poetry and art, occur. It is the time that "intelligences wake," as say the Vedas.
Nature is his spiritual guide, leading him in its simple natural rhythms toward his own spiritual path and his proper work.
Themes
Work Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Thoreau urges each man to awaken fully and "elevate his life by conscious endeavor." It is a man's duty to make every moment of his life meaningful. Thoreau went to the woods to "live deliberately." He has faith in simplicity as the path to spiritual wakefulness.
Transcendentalism sets out Thoreau's spiritual goals; self-reliance, and the simplicity it entails, is the method he uses to go after them.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Thoreau laughs about the absurdity of a man who wakes from a nap and asks for the news when he is not really awake to life. He rails against the post-office, saying he has never read something truly important in a letter or even in a newspaper, which contains only gossip.
Interest in the news is a sign that a man is concerned with the petty dealings of society over his own spiritual life. The post-office is just another distracting modern invention.
Themes
Self-Reliance Theme Icon
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Solitude and Society Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon
Men often confuse the appearance of things with reality, Thoreau believes, but with true wisdom and unhurriedness it is possible to get past "petty pleasures" and perceive matters of true worth. God is in the present moment. In order to experience spiritual truth, one must spend one's days as deliberately as nature.
Thoreau emphasizes that men, especially his readers, can change their lives and awaken to the profound possibilities of everyday life if they emulate nature.
Themes
Simplicity Over "Progress" Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and the Good Life Theme Icon