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Things to Remember about Thoreau

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RWE delivered the eulogy at T's funeral: 'No truer American existed than Thoreau. ... his own shelter gave him freedom to work productively as a writer and thinker ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Things to Remember about Thoreau


1
Things to Remember about Thoreau
  • English 215
  • Spring 2003

2
Relationship with Emerson
  • 14 years younger than RWE
  • Friendship bloomed in late 1830s, after Ts
    graduation from Harvard
  • Throughout the 1840s, E encouraged T as a writer,
    particularly praising his poetry and getting him
    started on the great topic of nature
  • Shared political attitudes about slavery
  • Friendship cooled some in the 1850s, with T
    resenting Es patronage E critical of what he
    saw as Ts lack of ambition
  • RWE delivered the eulogy at Ts funeral No
    truer American existed than Thoreau.

3
An age of social experimentation
  • Like the 1960s, the 1840s saw a number of
    experiments with communes. Hawthorne lived for a
    time at Brook Farm, the Alcotts at Fruitlands.
  • Ts stay at Walden Pond is a more solitary
    response to this same impulse towards social
    experimentation.

4
I went to the woods because I wished to live
deliberately, to front only the essential facts
of life.
  • Built a cabin on property owned by RWE and moved
    in on 4 July 1845
  • Lived economically and comfortably for two years
    and two months
  • Experiment in self reliance, but not a flight
    from society

5
Simplify, simplify.
  • Like RWE, HDT was profoundly skeptical of the
    division of labor.
  • The complexity and specialization of labor and
    commerce rob of us any command of our own lives.
  • if some have the pleasure of riding on a rail,
    others have the misfortune of being ridden upon.

6
By working about six weeks in a year, I could
meet all the expenses of living.
  • Growing his own food and building his own shelter
    gave him freedom to work productively as a writer
    and thinker
  • Profound connection between self reliance,
    meaningful labor, and thought

7
I say, break the law. Let your life be a
counter friction to stop the machine.
  • While living at Walden Pond, T was arrested and
    briefly jailed for not paying his poll tax.
  • His essay on the experience, Civil
    Disobedience, explores the question of what a
    person should do when he or she feels that his
    government is acting immorally.

8
Crosspollination
  • Like RWE, T avidly studied the Hindu scriptures
    of India.
  • Mahatma Gandhi studied Ts writings on civil
    disobedience as he led Indias struggle for
    independence.
  • MLK based many of his ideas on nonviolent action
    on the work of Gandhi.
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