Thursday, December 5, 2019

He spent his life in voluntary poverty, enthralled Essay Example For Students

He spent his life in voluntary poverty, enthralled Essay by the study of nature. Two years, in the prime of his life, were spent living in a shack in the woods near a pond. Who would choose a life like this? Henry David Thoreau did, and he enjoyed it. Who was Henry David Thoreau, what did he do, and what did others think of his work?Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12, 1817 (Thoreau 96), on his grandmothers farm. Thoreau, who was of French-Huguenot and Scottish-Quaker ancestry, was baptized as David Henry Thoreau, but at the age of twenty he legally changed his name to Henry David. Thoreau was raised with his older sister Helen, older brother John, and younger sister Sophia (Derleth 1) in genteel poverty (The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1). It quickly became evident that Thoreau was interested in literature and writing. At a young age he began to show interest writing, and he wrote his first essay, The Seasons, at the tender age of ten, while attending Concord Academy (Derleth 4). In 1833, at the age of sixteen, Henry David was accepted to Harvard University, but his parents could not afford the cost of tuition so his sister, Helen, who had begun to teach, and his aunts offered to help. With the assistance of his family and the beneficiary funds of Harvard he went to Cambridge in August 1833 and entered Harvard on September first. He Thoreau stood close to the top of his class, but he went his own way too much to reach the top (5). In December 1835, Thoreau decided to leave Harvard and attempt to earn a living by teaching, but that only lasted about a month and a half (8). He returned to college in the fall of 1836 and graduated on August 16, 1837 (12). Thoreaus years at Harvard University gave him one great gift, an introduction to the world of books. Upon his return from college, Thoreaus family found him to be less likely to accept opinions as facts, more argumentative, and inordinately prone to shock people with his own independent and unconventional opinions. During this time he discovered his secret desire to be a poet (Derleth 14), but most of all he wanted to live with freedom to think and act as he wished. Immediately after graduation from Harvard, Henry David applied for a teaching position at the public school in Concord and was accepted. However, he refused to flog children as punishment. He opted instead to deliver moral lectures. This was looked down upon by the community, and a committee was asked to review the situation. They decided that the lectures were not ample punishment, so they ordered Thoreau to flog recalcitrant students. With utter contempt he lined up six children after school that day, flogged them, and handed in his resignation, because he felt that physical punishment should have no part in education (Derleth 15). In 1837 Henry David began to write his Journal (16). It started out as a literary notebook, but later developed into a work of art. In it Thoreau record his thoughts and discoveries about nature (The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1). Later that same year, his sister, Helen, introduced him to Lucy Jackson Brown, who just happened to be Ralph Waldo Emersons sister-in-law. She read his Journal, and seeing many of the same thoughts as Emerson himself had expressed, she told Emerson of Thoreau. Emerson asked that Thoreau be brought to his home for a meeting, and they quickly became friends (Derleth 18). On April 11, 1838, not long after their first meeting Thoreau, with Emersons help, delivered his first lecture, Society (21). Ralph Waldo Emerson was probably the single most portentous person in Henry David Thoreaus life. From 1841 to 1843 and again between 1847 and 1848 Thoreau lived as a member of Emersons household, and during this time he came to know Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, and many other members of the Transcendental Club (Thoreau 696). On August 31, 1839 Henry David and his elder brother, John, left Concord on a boat trip down the Concord River, onto the Middlesex Canal, into the Merrimack River and into the state of New Hampshire. Out of this trip came Thoreaus first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (25). The Church of Scientology EssayThoreau has been called Americas greatest prose stylist, naturalist, pioneer ecologist, conservationist, visionary, and humanist (The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 2). It has also been said that Thoreaus style shows an unconscious, but very pointed degree of Emersons influence. However, there is often a rudeness, and an inartistic carelessness in Thoreaus style that is not at all like the style of Emerson. Thoreau possessed an amazing forte for expressing his many observations in vivid color: No one has ever excelled him in the field of minute description. His acute powers of observation, his ability to keep for a long time his attention upon one thing, and his love of nature and of solitude, all lend a distinct individuality to his style (Pattee 226). Thoreaus good friend Bronson Alcott described his style as:More primitive and Homeric than any American, his style of thinking was robust, racy, as if Nature herself had built his sentences and seasoned the sense of his paragraphs with his own vigor and salubrity. Nothing can be spared from them; there is nothing superfluous; all is compact, concrete, as nature is (Alcott 16). Most of Thoreaus writings had to do with Nature which caused him to receive both positive and negative criticism. Paul Elmer More said that Thoreau was: The greatest by far of our writers on Nature and the creator of a new sentiment in literature, but he then does a complete turn around to say: Much of his Thoreaus writing, perhaps the greater part, is the mere record of observation and classification, and has not the slightest claim on our remembrance, unless, indeed, it posses some scientific value, which I doubt (More 860). Thoreau was always very forthright in everything he said. Examples of this can be found throughout Walden, one of which being his statement in chapter two: To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea (Thoreau 79). There is certainly no ersatz sentiment, nor simulation of reverence of benevolence in Walden (Briggs 445). Thoreau was a philosopher of individualism, who placed nature above materialism in private life, and ethics above conformity in politics (The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1). His life was marked by whimsical acts and unusual stands on public issues (Thoreau 697). These peculiar beliefs led to a lot of criticism of Thoreau and his work. James Russell Lowell complained the Thoreau exalted the constraints of his own dispositions and insisted upon accepting his shortcomings and debilities as virtues and powers. Lowell considered: a great deal of the modern sentimentalism about Naturea mark of disease (Wagenknecht 2). In some ways Walden is deluding. It consists of eighteen essays in which Thoreau condenses his twenty-six month stay at Walden Pond into the seasons of a single year. Also, the idea is expressed in Magills Survey of American Literature that: Walden was not a wilderness, nor was Thoreau a pioneer; his hut was within two miles of town, and while at Walden, he made almost daily visits to Concord and to his family, dined out often, had frequent visitors, and went off on excursions. Walden is a testament to the renewing power of nature, to the need of respect and preservation of the environment, and to the belief that: in wildness is the salvation of the world (Magill 1949). Walden is simply an experience recreated in words for the purpose of getting rid of the world and discovering the self (Thoreau 697). Henry David Thoreau strived for freedom and equality. He was opinionated and argumentative. He stood up for what he believed in and was willing to fight for it. His teachings and writings had an amazing affect on people and the world, and will have for centuries to come.

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