Essay title: Thore Emeri Sosn
Economy: This is the first chapter and also the longest by far. Thoreau begins by outlining his project: a two-year and two-month stay at a crude cabin in the woods near Walden Pond. He does this, he says, in order to illustrate the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle.
He easily supplies the four necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, and fuel). He meticulously records his expenditures and earnings, demonstrating his understanding of "economy," as he builds his house and buys and grows food. For a home and freedom, he spends a mere $25.Complementary Verses: This chapter consists entirely of a poem, "The Pretensions of Poverty," by seventeenth-century English poet Thomas Carew. The poem criticizes those who think that their poverty gives them some sort of unearned moral and intellectual superiority.Where I Lived, and What I Lived For: After playing with the idea of buying a farm, Thoreau describes his cabin's location. Then he explains that he took up his abode at Walden Woods so as to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
"Reading: Thoreau discourses on the benefits of reading classical literature (preferably in the original Greek or Latin) and bemoans the lack of sophistication in Concord, manifested in the popularity of popular literature. He yearns for a utopian time when each New England village will support "wise men" to educate and thereby ennoble the population.Sounds: Thoreau opens this chapter by warning against relying too much on literature as a means of transcendence. Instead, one should experience life for oneself. Thus, after describing his cabin's beautiful natural surroundings and his casual housekeeping habits, Thoreau goes on to criticize the train whistle that interrupts his reverie.
To him, the railroad symbolizes the destruction of the good old pastoral way of life. Following is a description of the sounds audible from his cabin: the church bells ringing, carriages rattling and rumbling, cows lowing, whip-poor-wills singing, owls hooting, frogs croaking, and cockerels crowing.Solitude: Thoreau rhapsodizes about the beneficial effects of living solitary and close to nature.
He loves to be alone, for "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude," and he is never lonely as long as he is close to nature. He believes there is no great value to be had by rubbing shoulders with the mass of humanity.Visitors: Thoreau writes about the visitors to his cabin. Among the 25 or 30 visitors is a young Canadian woodchopper, whom Thoreau idealizes as approaching the ideal man, and a runaway slave, whom Thoreau helps on his journey to freedom in Canada.The Bean-Field: Thoreau relates his efforts to cultivate two and a half acres of beans. He plants in June and spends his summer mornings weeding the field with a hoe. He sells most of the crop, and his small profit of $8.
71 covers his needs.The Village: Thoreau visits the small town of Concord every day or two to hear the news, which he finds "as refreshing in its way as the rustle of the leaves." Nevertheless, he fondly but rather contemptuously compares Concord to a gopher colony. In late summer, he is arrested for refusing to pay federal taxes, but is released the next day.
He explains that he refuses to pay taxes to a government that supports slavery.The Ponds: In autumn, Thoreau rambles about the countryside and writes down his observations about the geography of Walden Pond and its neighbors: Flint's Pond (or Sandy Pond), White Pond, and Goose Pond. Although Flint's is the largest, Thoreau's favorites are Walden and White ponds.
They are lovelier than diamonds, he says.Baker Farm: While on an afternoon ramble in the woods, Thoreau gets caught in a rainstorm and takes shelter in the dirty, dismal hut of John Field, a penniless but hard-working Irish farmhand, and his wife and children. Thoreau urges Field to live a simple but independent and fulfilling life in the woods, thereby freeing himself of employers and creditors.
But the Irishman won't give up his dreams of luxury, which is the American dream.Higher Laws: Thoreau discusses whether hunting wild animals.