Nature January 21, 2015

Walden: Life in the Woods

by Press75

Walden (also known as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau is one of the best-known non-fiction books written by an American. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s life for two years, two months, and two days in second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond, on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, not far from his friends and family in Concord, Massachusetts. Walden was written so that the stay appears to be a year, with expressed seasonal divisions. Thoreau called it an experiment in simple living. Thoreau lived in close geographical proximity to the town Concord: “living a mile from any neighbor,” should be taken literally; he lived about a mile from his neighbors. He did not go into the woods to become a hermit, but to isolate himself from civil society in order to gain a more objective understanding of it. Walden is neither a novel nor a true autobiography, but a social critique of much of the contemporary Western World, with its consumerist attitudes and its distance from and destruction of nature.

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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

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A contemporary review…

[two-column]”The economical details and calculations in this book are more curious than useful; for the author’s life in the woods was on too narrow a scale to find imitators. But … he says so many pithy and brilliant things, and offers so many piquant, and, we may add, so many just, comments on society as it is, that this book is well worth the reading, both for its actual contents and its suggestive capacity.”
– A.P. Peabody, North American Review, 1854[/two-column][two-column last=”yes”]100 years later… “Thoreau, very likely without quite knowing what he was up to, took man’s relation to nature and man’s dilemma in society and man’s capacity for elevating his spirit and he beat all these matters together, in a wild free interval of self-justification and delight, and produced an original omelette from which people can draw nourishment in a hungry day.”
– E.B. White, The Yale Review, 1954[/two-column]

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