Walden Summary | Walden by Henry David Thoreau Summary

Walden Summary | Walden by Henry David Thoreau Summary

Hello Friend, In this Post “Walden Summary | Walden by Henry David Thoreau Summary“, We will read about the Summary Of Walden in detail with an In-depth Analysis. So…

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Walden Summary {Step by Step Guide}

In today’s modern life, the sole purpose of our living is to become successful and we all are participating in this rat race in some or another way.
Our unlimited desires have replaced our basic necessities. We are running after success, after money, and after fame. Our life goals now include acquiring assets, properties, and the latest gadgets.
We have started leading a materialistic lifestyle where money is the ultimate authority. At such times, I recommend everyone to read this book at least once in his or her lifetime.
So, friends, I welcome you all to my today’s session on WALDEN by Henry David Thoreau. I am going to analyze this book and will throw some light on the circumstances which made the author write such an extensive piece of work.
Friends, while doing my homework for this session I read about the author also and felt that one needs to know the author of this book also to have a fair understanding of this book.
So the author of WALDEN is Henry David Thoreau. He was born in 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, and died in 1862. He died because of
tuberculosis.
He was an American philosopher, naturalist, historian, essayist, social critic, author, and poet also. His parents made their living by making pencils.
They were not very rich people but still were cultured. Thoreau got his education from Harvard. He began his career as a teacher but resigned very soon then founded a progressive school, worked for the family business also.
He also worked as a town surveyor. He changed several occupations but none could give him solace. His early writing began with writing journals.
He wrote many nature narratives and poems also and published essays in ‘The Dial’ magazine.
He was heavy influenced by the American philosopher and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson after meeting him in Concord.
Emerson became his mentor. He helped Thoreau to find a place where he could pursue his writing career peacefully. Emerson owned a piece of land in the woods in Concord which was surrounded by Walden Pond.
He let Thoreau build a cabin and live there. Thoreau spent a period of two years, two months, and two days in this cabin. he penned down all the experiences that he had during his stay in Walden.
In 1854, he published his reflections on life in the woods in the book WALDEN. This book was considered a milestone in the quest for
self-discovery.
Thoreau’s celebration of life and his call for society to recognize the true meaning of life is the core theme of WALDEN. Friends, I would like to explain a little about ‘Transcendentalism’.
This is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s in the eastern United States. The followers of this belief are strong believers in the power of the individual.
It is mainly related to the idea of personal freedom and self-reliance. This ideology believed that man and nature are inherently pure and good, the society and its institutions corrupt the innate purity of the individual.
The followers rely more on intuitions than on empiricism. They have this belief that God manifests himself inside of everyone. They believe that soul is immortal.
This belief is directly inspired by the greatest Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, which Thoreau himself mentioned in his writings.
These people have deep gratitude for nature and they believed in living in harmony with nature.
Won’t go further deep in this topic otherwise, it will become a philosophy lecture, just wanted to tell a little about the ideology that Thoreau believed in.
Friends, here I feel very proud of my enriched Hindu heritage. The thoughts and beliefs that provoked movements in the West were explained in detail, centuries ago in our holy books.
Friends I think, to understand Walden properly we must know about the author and his beliefs. Now we come back to Walden, this book was published in 1854 with the name ‘Walden – or life in the woods.
When the second edition got published in 1862 the name of the book was changed to just ‘Walden’ at the author’s request.
This book is a detailed record of the experiences of Thoreau over the period of two years, two months, and two days spent in a cabin built near Walden Pond amidst woods near Concord.
This piece of land where the cabin was built was owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This is an autobiographical memoir in which the author recounts his Walden experiences in the past tense and uses the present tense for the philosophical, spiritual, and moral passages.
This book was written in the English language. Thoreau compressed the span of 2 years 2 months into a single year and used the passing seasons as a motif for human development.
He explained in this book how to live a minimalist life amidst nature. This time was a kind of Thoreau’s spiritual journey to know the inner self.
He believed that by living a simple life close to nature one can enrich his inner self which is far more important than chasing after wealth and success as none of these can fulfill the deepest needs.
The book begins with the author informing the readers that he spent two years, two months, and two days at Walden Pond leading a minimalist life without much support.
He makes clear that after this experimental episode he moves back to civilized life again. Every chapter of the book focuses on a different experience that Thoreau had during his Walden stay.
The first chapter describes the details about building his small cabin, his experiences in the woods, and how he sustained there happily.
He tells that he could easily manage to get the four basic necessities of life which according to him were food, shelter, clothing, and fuel with the help of family and friends.
He recorded every single detail about his expenditure and earnings demonstrating his understanding of the economy while building the cabin, growing and selling beans, and leading a fulfilled life.
He sustained on very little money to lead a free and happy life and this is what he tries to tell that a simplified lifestyle ensures many spiritual benefits and it is not necessary to live according to the conventional social norms.
He always endorsed self-reliance but was not an extremist. Whenever needed, he sought help from the people around him but eagerly waited to return the favor also.
This is the longest chapter of this book where he recounted all the memories while building the cabin in Walden and living a happy and minimalist life in it. Then he told me the reason for choosing this path.
He said that he chose this path deliberately to experience a life that is free from any kind of social obligation and full of freedom.
He said that he wanted to experience the real meaning of life which is much more than the biological and materialistic functioning, it is the inner fulfillment.
He forces the readers about rethinking their life choices Thoreau says that he observed the divine pleasure of creation after building that small cabin on Walden Pond.
He describes its placement in the cosmos also. By saying so he was reminding the readers of their inner strength, their divine ability to create a world of their own.
He recollects all the circumstances and thought processes that he underwent before coming and settling down in Walden.
At Walden, he passed his daytime by reading, contemplating, and walking about the countryside.
He was very happy with a simple and minimalist lifestyle and constantly advocated for the same.
Thoreau forced readers to recognize the contentment that he was deriving from a simple life devoid of material prosperity.
He discusses the benefits of reading classical literature also. He derives pleasure in the sounds of nature and the sounds coming from his surroundings as well.
He says, “I watched the passage of the morning cars with the same feeling that I do the rising of the Sun”.
Though he was living an isolated life still he could feel the presence of society continuously interrupting his reveries.
On many occasions, he had conversations with many people like the peasant farmer, the railroad worker, or the Canadian-born woodcutter Alex.
He paid frequent visits to Concord also to seek the company of his friends and to conduct the seasonal businesses. He found the company of nature superior to the human company.
For him, to be in harmony with nature signified being spiritually whole, as he mentioned, “I find it wholesome to be alone”.
While visiting once to Concord, Thoreau had to spend a night in jail also as he refused to pay a poll tax which was levied on all citizens as a precondition for voting.
According to Thoreau, the government supported slavery. The next day he was released and he returns to Walden. At Walden, most of Thoreau’s time was spent feeling and understanding nature.
He learned from the seasonal cycle and from the creatures in the woods. He devoted great attention to nature and its signals.
He used to observe everything as if each creature and each act has a distinctive moral and philosophical lesson to teach.
He also discussed the importance of being vegetarian. Then the season changes from autumn to winter and Thoreau began preparing for its arrival.
He observes the animals as they moved quickly while gathering food. He welcomes the pests that infest his cabin, he plasters his walls to protect himself from the winds, he installs the chimney also.
By day he observed the snow and ice especially the mystique blue ice of Walden Pond and by night he listened to the winds as it whispered outside his door.
Suddenly he seemed depressed at the arrival of winter but then he struggles to overcome it also.
He learns from nature itself that he need not surrender to the psychological winter in his life.
This state of mind was symbolically depicted by the author by cutting a hole in the ice and catching a glimpse of the life moving below the ice at Walden Pond.
He metaphorically was looking within his soul. Then he recalls that one January day, a crew of hundred Irish laborers was cutting out the Walden ice for sale in warmer cities.
At first, he was upset but then he was glad at the thought of people from other places deriving great value from his Walden.
He tells that in the morning he would bathe his intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Geeta, which would transmit him to a state of deep reverence and an imaginary moment where he had this feeling that he had integrated Oriental and Western cultures thus the pure Walden water was mixed with the sacred water of the Ganges.
Here Thoreau’s imagination is stimulated and he depicts a feeling of oneness amongst the people of different cultures and philosophies.
Then once he thinks of measuring the depth of Walden and the other neighboring ponds. He found that Walden which was considered as a bottomless pond was around 100 feet deep only.
He still finds this depth remarkable for such a small area. He meditates also on the pond as a symbol of infinity.
Winter passed and spring approached with a huge roar of the breaking up of the Walden ice which then began to melt and hit the shore.
Thoreau felt his own spiritual meltdown also and describes the onset of spring as a vast transformation on the face of the world, a time when all the sins are forgiven and the world was once again being created as though for the first time.
Thoreau then describes all the changes that take place during spring and as nature grows towards its summer maturation Thoreau also moves towards his spiritual fulfillment.
He announced that his Walden project is over now and he returned to civilized life on the 6th of September 1847.
Based on his experiences at Walden, he suggests his readers begin a new and real life.
He says that just because we live in some particular city within the four walls, we should not conclude that our lives are limited to that only neither do we need to travel around the world to have an enriching life rather we should travel towards our inner self by discovering our inner potentials and try to elevate ourselves.
Friends, this Walden Pond is symbolic of the author’s self and at the end of the book he declares the rebirth of a spirit, or we can say his spiritual elevation by describing the waters of the youthful Walden Pond sparkling in the Sun, on the spring rolling on into summer.
Winter is long gone now. The book is over now but friends, I would like to mention few quotes from the book which according to me describe the whole theme of the book.
The most important lines, “I went to the woods because I wished 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 to discover that I had not lived”.
Here, Thoreau is telling the reason behind deliberately choosing this path. He tells that he wanted to see and test by himself that whether he can sustain an isolated life in the woods devoid of any material prosperity or not and he finds that very minimal is required to live a fulfilled life if we understand the real meaning of life.
The second quote is, “Most of the luxuries and many so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind”.
Thoreau believed that the more materialistic prosperity more are the chances of getting distracted from the path of recognizing the inner potentials.
And in the end, “It is not worth the while to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar”.
In this satirical statement, Thoreau states that it is not necessary to travel the whole world without any purpose rather we should travel towards our inner self and recognize our hidden potentials so that we can elevate ourselves our souls.
Friends, I tried to explain WALDEN and a little about the author, Henry David Thoreau also. It’s quite a different kind of philosophical book.
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