Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a non-fiction novel. The book is an account of Thoreau’s stay in isolation at a secluded cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The author chose to live alone away from society as an experiment. This book delves into many philosophical ideas yet somehow remains grounded in the world we know today.
I am not sure how to explain the story of this book; it is tricky. Thoreau chose to live near Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts for two years, writing this book. It was a social experiment that would help him explore nature and society from an objective point of view. Thoreau talks about how hard people work to fulfill their needs but they don’t need to work so hard if they choose a simpler life. The obsession with material things, and need to have certain luxuries just for the sake of it ends up taking a toll on us. In the end, all of the materialistic or extra luxuries leave people drained and empty.
Thoreau works in the field himself to grow food produce, and cooks it himself too; he builds a small cabin for himself. He lives a self-sustaining lifestyle at the cabin. He earns some money by working a bean field and maintains a record of finances diligently to show how little humans need to survive. He often has visitors but he specifically mentions a woodcutter who is rough around the edges but Thoreau enjoyed his company. When he finds himself isolated from people, he often went to the village where he was once arrested for not paying taxes.
The book talks a lot about existence, the choices we make, our needs and the part society play in our life. The one idea that you come across in the book prominently from start to finish is Self- Reliance. This idea is to trust oneself and your instincts completely to survive; to be yourself and not try to fit in with societal conformities. Thoreau enjoys his solitude; it gives him time to think and enjoy nature but communication with people is appealing too. Often he finds himself needing company and socializing with other people. We need solitude and space for ourselves but we also need other people so it is not an either-or kind of situation.
Thoreau was a transcendentalist writer. This is the reason Walden emphasizes self-reliance, independence, nature, and individuality An individual doesn’t need to conform to society; conforming leads to loss of individuality, and society and its institutions have ruined the idea of an ‘individual’. The ideas of the books and the way it is written have a philosophical tone to it. Thoreau’s ideas and concepts make sense, it is interesting no doubt but at times it got too slow. The content of the book with its themes can become heavy to read, as there is much to absorb.
It took me time to get immersed in the book, especially in the beginning. I read this book slowly because it’s difficult to read for a long time. The ideas in the book resound even in today’s society and it is still a relevant work of literature. After reading this book, I understand why it is considered to be one of the best works of American literature.
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