Henry David Thoreau's Call for a New Ideology in Walden Essay

Henry David Thoreau's Call for a New Ideology in Walden Essay

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As most naturalists do, Henry David Thoreau detailed his two-year nature experiment with extensive observations in his book Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. But Thoreau was far more than a common environmentalist he was a revolutionary. Through transcendentalism, simplicity and art Thoreau calls readers to contemplate a paradigm shift in their existence toward a genuine self. To do this, the individuals must remove themselves from a life that is defined by society and enter into a life that is true to them. He makes a call to action to consider a sustainable and virtuous ideology for cultivating nature.

Thoreau was a pioneering transcendentalist. He believed that god is in every aspect of nature; wildlife is a reflection of divine creation. Thoreau’s ideology was radical at this time where Calvinist and Trinitarian religious views were commonplace in upper middle class Massachusetts. Transcendentalism contradicted their view that inspiration could only be achieved miraculously, from god directly as apposed to naturally. In the section of Walden titled The Bean-Field we see his direct connections between the earth and spirituality. Even un-living forces are a replication of god “The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted;” (Walden, 55) His small beans and peas humbled Thoreau. He found it exhilarating to work with his plants seeing“ the results of my presence and influence” (Walden, 101)

He explains how nature “attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.” (Walden,100). Here he parallels himself to the Greek mythological giant who grappled with Hercules. He explains how plants can teach him more about his own self rather than of the plant. He asks us to reflect on the “ intimate and cu...


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...ery morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” (Walden, 58)

Thoreau’s view on simplicity and agriculture were radical because there are certainly not the product of the mind of an ordinary New England small farmer. Typically these farmers cultivated for seed and profit, Thoreau only sought to grow enough to sustain himself.

Thoreau’s attitudes of living deliberately, spirituality and exposing the severe beauty of nature were radical ideologies in his time. His purpose was to call his neighbors to reconsider their lives. As an agricultural reformer he strived for modification in the way land is perceived and farmed. Thoreau’s radical view on husbandry was a mechanism for distinct social change including attitudes such as transcendentalism, husbandry as art and agriculture as simplistic.

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