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Walden - Henry David Thoreau

Famous Nonfiction Classic - Nature Writing

By

Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems

Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems

Library of America

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Henry David Thoreau wrote "Walden" between 1845 and 1854, basing the text upon his experiences when he lived at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts. The book was published in 1854. Read more about "Walden," by Henry David Thoreau.

Characters:

Henry David Thoreau: The author narrates the essay in the first person, with nearly 2,000 uses of "I." In the essay, he is the central character, as a naturalist, poet, and essayist.

Other persons mentioned are: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alex Therien, John Field, Amos Bronson Alcott, William Ellery Channing, Henry Clay, Lidian Emerson, Confucius, James Russell Lowell, Mencius, John Thoreau.

Setting:

Walden Pond, from Summer 1845 through Summer 1847.

Major Events:

  • Thoreau borrowed an ax and built a cabin by the north shore of Walden Pond.
  • Thoreau lives a life of simplicity.
  • Thoreau cultivates a bean field. He also meditates, reads, and takes walks.
  • Thoreau spent a night in jail for refusing to pay the poll tax.
  • Thoreau moves back to Concord--back to "civilization." His experiment is complete.

Symbols:

  • Hooting loon
  • Ice
  • Walden Pond

Questions for Writing, Thinking & Discussing:

  • What is important about the title?
  • What conflicts take place in this essay, and what type(s) of conflicts are they (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional)?
  • Why does Thoreau move to Walden Pond? Describe the pond, and the structure he builds for himself.
  • How does Thoreau learn self-reliance?
  • Thoreau plants a bean-field. Why?
  • What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot?
  • Does the essay end the way you expected? How? Why?
  • What is the central/primary purpose of the essay? Is the purpose important or meaningful?
  • How essential is the setting to the essay? Could the essay have taken place anywhere else?
  • Why are the seasonal changes/cycles so important? Why would seasonal changes make any difference?
  • Who visits Thoreau at his place on Walden Pond?
  • What does Thoreau have to say about reading and education?
  • What does Thoreau say about the government, society, and civilization? Do his opinions change at all during the essay?

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