BOOK

LIFE IN THE WOODS

Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) is an American book written by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that reflects upon simple living in natural surroundings. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self-reliance. First published in 1854, it details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. Here he lived a border life between civilization of town life to his east and the primitivism of the frontier to the west.  Feeling that the civilization had erected barriers between man and nature which can lead only to alienation and unhappiness, he believed to experience the most vivid and profound experiences in the woods: “The land, with its tranquilizing, sanative influences, is to repair the errors of a scholastic and traditional education, and brings us into just relation with men and things. Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest.”

 With Walden, Thoreau tried to reconfigure our sense of what lack of means might indicate about a person. In the book, he provides a breakdown of the minimal costs he had incurred in building his new home and resonates how it was not always a sign to be a loser at the game of life; instead, it might simply signify that one has opted to focus one’s energies on activities other than making money, thereby enriching one’s life in other ways. Dissatisfied with the word poverty as a descriptor for his own condition, Thoreau preferred simplicity, which he felt conveyed a consciously chosen material situation: “Man is rich in proportion of the number of things, he can do without”

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