The Fundamental Statements of “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau is encouraging us to wake ourselves up spiritually. The original consciousness that he is referring to is likely an attitude in which one takes nature for granted and does not ‘awaken’ their heart and soul. Thoreau similarly stresses that this will lead to a more fulfilled life with no regrets. I believe that dawn represents hope with Thoreau using this to symbolize the ‘reawakening’ of one’s soul and the knowledge that they seek. I find this hard to analyze; what I can personally deduce is that even through one may have achieved successful materialistic goals, Thoreau believes that it is more “glorious” in life to work on your inner self which is the only way to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Although I agree with this, I believe that it is an unrealistic statement as modern societies have too much obstacles and mindsets obstructing this. Unfortunately, everyone will end their lives with regret or there was always be room for improvement.
Thoreau is comparing society to that of “chopping sea” in which one is forced along whatever current is in control. Because of the connotation to a storm, Thoreau is implying that society is dangerous. He is also suggesting that a simple life is more enjoyable, stating “I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” Furthermore, he also stresses that a better life involves improving yourself as a person and measuring your success through your own desires, not what society perceives to be successful and in acquired materialistic items.
Thoreau is emphasizing that people that conform and take paths that are already set out for them ultimately lose their individuality, spirit and personal aims. This is evident in the fact that millions of people live fake lives in order to escape ridicule from society. Many will post media of themselves online that does not portray their true self because they feel the need to be accepted by society. He is emphasizing and encouraging his readers to change routines so they can continue learning and growing as a person. His path was “still quite distinct” as his philosophy involved taking control and leading his life through his own path without negative influence from society.
Thoreau is implying that in order to life an enjoyable life, one must take a break from society and make their own decisions without external influences: “I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could see the moonlight.” Thoreau is expressing “liberal” views as he is evidently against conservative customs and societies and is encouraging everyone to take control of their life. Liberal views are that of freedom with less strict rules. Thoreau is not literally referencing laws as in punishment, but is stressing that in “liberal laws”, people should be more open-minded and focus on improving themselves. The significance that he is emphasizing is that we should not be bound by religion or strict laws. This phrase represents that the people that follow his transcendentalist philosophy: living off simple means, pursuing nature and nonconformity will elevate and become better people, the “higher order of beings”. I can deduce that Thoreau is speaking of building “castles in the air” as a metaphor of one’s aspirations and dreams. He is conveying that one cannot simply construct a castle on the air (nothing), but most have a plan and solid foundations. This is more logical and realistic advice as it puts emphasize on stability and will not encourage one to helplessly pursue their most wild goals without security.
Thoreau is writing in a hostile tone, using diction “dinning” to aggressively direct his declaration towards people that claim “moderns…are intellectual dwarves.” He is urging everyone to make their own choices and not judge everyone: “let everyone mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.”
He appears to be arguing that a wealthy man will have more problems and will ultimately be more unhappy compared to a poor man. He remarks that life “looks poorest when you are richest” emphasizing his views that a simple life leads to fulfillment. This analysis by Thoreau is often stressed by rich people who will often state that money cannot buy happiness. I disagree with this statement as I believe that one cannot hide behind a simple life as challenges are good and improve you as a person. One may indeed have some “pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse” but they will tend to have less independence and will be even more restricted by society. On the other hand, happiness and success do not depend on wealth. Thoreau has used the sunset and the melting of the snow to represent that nature is the biggest reward/sight that one can enjoy and that you do not need to be wealthy to witness it: “the setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode.” He is conveying that nature is no better for a rich man than it is for a poor man and they can thus have equally fulfilling lives.
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