In Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Civil Disobedience, a problem is presented in the way in which we live our lives. Thoreau sees this problem and goes to Walden Pond to find the solution. Yet his solution is controversial in that it seems to propose actions that go against human nature. Thoreau's prescription for American desperation cannot be accepted by the masses for it is rooted in anti-socialism when humans are essentially social in nature. However, this conclusion is not entirely accurate, as one needs to explore Thoreau's entire solution and the intent of what he is saying in this work.
First, the problem needs to be defined as Thoreau sees it. And he sees this problem in Concord, the city in which he lives, as such a threat to his very survival and mental well being that he actually leaves this town to go live in semi-seclusion. The problems he observes within the town and people around him are actually numerous and yet all-encompassing. He observes some character traits inherent in the people of Concord as flawed and leading to the deconstruction of their humanity. These traits include desperation, materialism, commercialism, industriousness, and insincerity.
Desperation was like a combination of blinders and a weight tied to the ankle of every person. These 'desperate' men choose menial jobs and work long hours because "they honestly think there is no choice left" (Thoreau 50). They are caught in this continuous cycle of pursuing empty dreams and putting faith into the teachings of the old. Yet the old "have no very important advice to give the young", says Thoreau, "their own experience has been so partial, and their own lives have been suc...
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...n. It's not necessarily misanthropic or anti-social, it's his solution to a problem. This solution, however, is hard to understand and even more difficult to execute. Thoreau does offer us with a viable, if cryptic, solution.
Works Cited and Consulted
Botkin, Daniel B. "The Depth of Walden Pond: Thoreau as a Guide to Solving Twenty-First Century Problems." The Concord Saunterer, 9 (2001), 5-14.
Cafaro, Philip. "Thoreau's Virtue Ethics in Walden." The Concord Saunterer, 8 (2000), 23-47.
Richardson, Robert D. Jr. "The Social Ethics of Walden." In Myerson, 1988, 235-248.
Thoreau, Henry David. "Walden." Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Fourth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.
Thoreau, Henry. "Civil Disobedience." Elements of Argument: A text and Reader. Ed. Annette T. Rottenberg. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000.
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