The Henry David Thoreau : The Imperial Self Essay

The Henry David Thoreau : The Imperial Self Essay

Length: 1055 words (3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Imperial Self in Franklin and Thoreau
The fabled American novels Walden and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin present two drastically different versions of successful lives. The past focuses on spiritual enlightenment, focused introspective, and the joys of isolated thought; the latter praises the Protestant work ethic, the ability to weather misfortune and continue working in set professions towards a future of wealth and comfort. While they differ entirely in their methods, both Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin and their individual books argue that people have complete mastery over themselves but differ on the implications of that belief.
In the final chapter of Walden, Henry David Thoreau appeals for all people to discover and become their true selves. After detailing the personal transformation he underwent during his time at Walden Pond, Thoreau commands his readers do the same. The entire memoir boils down to the central belief that “if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hour” (Thoreau Dover 172). Thoreau claims that the only thing stopping people from flourishing in the fullest sense of happiness is their fear of finding out what lies within them. According to him, anyone can drastically alter their life’s course before resigning to an undesirable fate pushed onto them by society. Thoreau argues several times throughout Walden that society’s demands are inherently destructive, going so far as to say that “the greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad” (5).
Thoreau also fights against those who enslave themselves. In his concluding chapter, Thoreau ...


... middle of paper ...


...others and respectable living. When he notices his proclivity to brag, rather than examine or embrace it, Franklin hides it and pretends it does not exist in the company of those whom he wishes to impress. Recall that his first description of the story involves becoming famous across the western world. In direct contrast, Thoreau experiences disgust when he discovers that other people have adopted his exact same practices at Walden Pond because he desired only to discover himself. Walden also features several sharp attacks on the same materialism which Franklin celebrates in his descriptions of the wealth he amassed over a variety of laborious business ventures. There is no denying that Thoreau and Franklin share the view that each individual person can truly make themselves, but how they can and what the final product should look like is a point of major contention.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Henry David Thoreau 's Walden Essay

- ... Furthermore, on page 107, Thoreau begins seeing his habitat as his own “little world” and states that, “It is much Asia or Africa as New England” (107). This can be inferred as him viewing nature as a whole, rather than a sort of specific place. By having an area all to himself, he not only is capable of making connections with nature to himself, but also capable of making connections to nature as a whole. To add, the line “I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and candles have been introduced” emphasizes the idea that many individuals are afraid of discovering their true selves (107)....   [tags: Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau, Walden]

Better Essays
1076 words (3.1 pages)

Thoreau And The Woods By Henry David Thoreau Essay

- Henry David Thoreau born on July 27, 1817 was an American author, philosopher, poet, historian, naturalist, and leading transcendentalist. Thoreau is best known for his book, “Walden; or Life in the Woods” and also his essay “Resistance to Civil Disobedience.” He was born David Henry Thoreau, and later changed his name to Henry David after college. He was born to John Thoreau, who was a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar. Thoreau’s maternal grandmother, Asa Dunbar, led 1766 student Butter Rebellion at Harvard, which was the first recorded student rebellion in the colonies....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Better Essays
1112 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about Henry David Thoreau : Civil Disobedience

- When thinking of Henry David Thoreau, the first thing that comes to mind is his award-winning book Walden or essay “Civil Disobedience”, both pinnacles of the transcendentalist philosophy of the time. In learning more about their author, however, it is important to look at his earlier works, more specifically, his poetry. Henry David Thoreau’s naturalistic poetry reflects his transcendentalistic ideology that arose from his close relationship with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his time spent immersing himself in nature....   [tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau]

Better Essays
1683 words (4.8 pages)

Civil Disobedience, By Henry David Thoreau Essay

- “Government is best which governs least.” This single quote is the most important line of the short story and what also defines this short story as a classic.“Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau, is a Thoreau’s viewpoint on issues that face the nation as a whole including the size of the government, how the government should be fixed, and social issues. These problems though are not just facing the nation during his lifetime, but also our life. Thoreau is known as a classic author through his life story and his work in the transcendentalism movement, but also with the themes in “Civil Disobedience” and the style....   [tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau]

Better Essays
1139 words (3.3 pages)

Essay about Ralph Emerson And Henry David Thoreau

- Only a few variations of carbon molecules truly separate organisms from objects. Yet this seemingly straightforward science ignores why humans, in all of their complexity, stem from just random happenstance, revealing that the science of life does not necessarily expose its meaning. For that answer, famed Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau look within the self, rather than a laboratory. In his Self-Reliance essay, Emerson hypothesizes the meaning to be in independence; whereas, Thoreau, from his venture in the woods in Walden, theorizes it to be in simplicity....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Better Essays
1248 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Henry David Thoreau 's Walden

- An extremely pertinent passage has been pondered, upon which an imponderable amount of contemplation has ensued. I am thoroughly ashamed to inform such a like-minded man as none other than Henry David Thoreau, that his cynical contemplations, which took place centuries ago, have yet to be diminished. Unfortunately, informing him appears to be quite inevitable and I have taken it upon myself to undergo the duties of his modern day informant. Though one may refer to me as simply an informant, I see it more so as a sophisticated yet friendly deed while somehow being simultaneously honorable in spite of the shameful context....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Walden, United States]

Better Essays
1038 words (3 pages)

Essay on The Accomplishments Of Henry David Thoreau

- Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12th, in Concord Massachusetts. Thoreau was many things, not simply just a writer; but he was one of the most influential writers America knows today. Early on in his life he grew up in a simple home with hard-working parents, and an abundance of siblings. His father and mother both had worked as teachers as well as investing in many other trades to get by. Henry started developing his talent for writing early on, by age ten he had written his first piece of writing, “The Seasons,” as well as many other academic achievements for somebody his age....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Concord]

Better Essays
1471 words (4.2 pages)

Henry David Thoreau's Integrity Essay

- Henry David Thoreau's Integrity Although his actions were admirable and act as evidence to integrity, the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Emerson reveal a haughty and pretentious individual. Thoreau's courage was noble. He was quick to immerse himself in his beliefs and abandon any obligation to social norms despite the risk in damaging his reputation. His rejection of societal limitations and steadfast individualism was truly commendable, however, his mannerisms were extremely rude. He cast aside all tact and consideration of others because he was so consumed with himself....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau Essays]

Better Essays
596 words (1.7 pages)

Henry David Thoreau Was a Fool Essay

- Lincoln has been credited as being a person that fought for equality between races, when he himself believed that African Americans were inferior, the image people give him is unreal, propaganda by the Radical Republicans in the reconstruction era. Many people have ideas that do not hold up when put to the test, or even their own reasoning. Henry David Thoreau’s ideas and ideals do not hold up when compared to reality. Thoreau believed that if a man did less work, the better it would be for the man and his community....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau Essays]

Free Essays
592 words (1.7 pages)

Simplicity and Freedom in Walden by Henry David Thoreau Essay

- In chapter two of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, entitled "Where I Lived, and What I Lived for", there are two themes that run throughout the narrative. The key theme that emerges continually is that of simplicity with the additional theme being that of freedom. Thoreau finds himself surrounded by a world that has no true freedom or simplified ways, with people committed to the world that surrounds them rather than being committed to their own true self within nature. Simplicity is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as a simple state or quality; freedom from complexity; absence of elegance and luxury; uncomplicated....   [tags: Walden, Henry David Thoreau]

Better Essays
962 words (2.7 pages)