When thinking about the transcendental period and/or about individuals reaching out and submerging themselves in nature, Henry David Thoreau and his book, Walden, are the first things that come to mind. Unknown to many, there are plenty of people who have braved the environment and called it their home during the past twenty years, for example: Chris McCandless and Richard Proenneke. Before diving into who the “modern Thoreaus” are, one must venture back and explore the footprint created by Henry Thoreau.
On July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, John and Cynthia birthed their third child, Henry David Thoreau. Striving to support the growing family, John worked as a pencil manufacturer, while Cynthia boarded individuals. His two older siblings, John and Helen, paved the road for Henry Thoreau’s education. Their desire for him to receive a top-notch education and the help of their salary donations, Thoreau was able to attend Harvard College (Levine).
While at Harvard, Henry Thoreau primarily studied the classics, which were Latin and Greek grammar. He also studied some mathematics, English, and mental, natural, and intellectual philosophy. In the end, he wasn’t impressed with the education that Harvard provided. He even stated “Yes, indeed, all the branches and none of the roots.” when talking about the structure of the college (Levine).
After college Henry David Thoreau returned to his hometown of Concord where he worked as a teacher at a district school. Eventually, him and his brother, John, opened up a private school. However, in 1841 the doors of the school closed due to a fatal illness that John had contracted. Throughout the period of being a teacher, Thoreau began to rethink his life and his chosen profession. Th...
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...nd a half. However, he remained in the Twin Lakes for twenty-nine years. At the age of eighty-nine he had to “retire” due to illness (Macom).
During the twenty-nine years in Alaska, Proenneke kept journals for documenting thoughts, weather variations and characteristics, animal behavior, etc. Richard Proenneke’s life embodies the determination and the ability to find pure beauty in the indifferent environment. The same goes for Chris McCandless. He endured the harsh behaviors of nature due to the fundamental belief of simplicity and finding identity within the natural world. The discoveries that they made—identity and nature—perfectly outline the ideal lifestyle and mind set Henry David Thoreau was emphasizing. The themes and beliefs that Thoreau and the Transcendentalists pushed for are not isolated to 1800s. In fact, some people still live by their values today.
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