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A summary of Walden, David Thoreau

Walden

One day you certainly were exhausted by the city life? A daily contact with crowd, noise and pollution can quickly undermine the energy even for the most urban of us. Leaving to isolate oneself in the forest who never dreamed about it? David Thoreau did it, in 1835, and wasn’t able as today to take a flight ticket to join the solitude of paradisiac beaches of Asia or somewhere else. What were his teachings? It is what he tried to do in his book Walden, or the life in woods. Walden is the name of a pond near of which the author decided to live, in a wooden house, only facing himself and the nature.

It seems to be a romantic project the one of wanting to be emancipated from the city and its social conventions. Nevertheless the life at Walden was another reality for a lot of Amerindians who, although living in tribe, had adopted a lifestyle close to the nature. This geographical closeness was maybe a motivation for David Thoreau who wished to discover the secrets of his contemporaries, natives of Americas, so close and nevertheless so distant from him at the same time.

The author realize that modern life offers only little room to reach knowledge and self-knowledge

Indeed, he noticed that work and bligations prevent most of the ” modern people” from taking advantage of joys of life. In a rather avant-gardist way, he rejected consumerism of his time which illustrates the vanity as well as the internal vacuity from which many Americans suffer according to him. Besides, he also sees that the intense work sometimes takes the shape of a voluntary servitude which diverts individuals from reading or resting. According to David, the workers of his time were in a great majority dulled by their work and didn’t even have the capacity to think by themselves.

Thoreau decides to leave in wood to live a simple life, the one that meets the elementary needs for food, shelters, clothes and fuel (for the heat during winters). He so expresses his refusal of society life in any social recognitions. This simple life would have allowed him to have more time to read, think and clarify his ideas.

The housing environment of his contemporaries became for him mainly ostentatious. Showing their status war the main function of a house of his time (and still today) which diverts it from the original role that is to be functional.
Simplicity even frugality releases from all that time spent working to finally obtain only a social recognition. In its life outdoors, Thoreau learns to build its house and to cultivate its own vegetables, what provided him a simple but deep enjoyment.

Although living alone in a wood, he sometimes had the visit from artist friends or from onlookers about his lifestyle. But Thoreau also had neighbors: fauna with which he shared the forest, rodents, birds and small big cats. He also learns the charms, the benefactions and the challenges of every season. Urban life would not have allowed him to see such a change during the year.

This communion with nature gave him a renewed energy which he had never experimented previously. After 2 years of life in the wood, Thoreau leaves Walden but learns invaluable lessons. According to him, the simplicity of its own life allows to fight the complexity of the outside world. Living simply allows to raise his consciousness and to become emancipated from the conditioning of a life of labours. Looking for the truth is more precious than runing after money or fame. Materialism prevents us from living our life completely.

 

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