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Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

One of Henry David Thoreau’s first memories was of staying awake at night “looking through the stars to see if I could see God behind them.” One might say he never stopped looking into nature for ultimate Truth. Though he is often cast into such roles as “the hermit in the wilderness” or “the prophet of passive resistance”, he would have surely seen these titles as being somewhat alien, but because Thoreau’s work is so rich, and so full of the complex contradictions, it has become the norm for his readers keep reshaping his image to fit their own needs. Perhaps he would have appreciated that, for he seems to have wanted most to use words to force his readers to rethink their own lives creatively, different though they may be, even as he spent his life rethinking his, always asking questions, always looking to nature for greater intensity and meaning for his life.

Thoreau’s celebration of solitude was a natural outgrowth of his commitment to the idea of individualism. He believed that independent, well-considered action arose naturally from a questing attitude of mind. He was first and foremost an explorer, of both the world around him and the world within him. Allying himself with an ancient tradition of asceticism, he also considered the ownership of material possessions beyond the basic necessities of life to be an obstacle, rather than an advantage. He saw that most people measured their worth in terms of what they owned, and stood this common assumption on its head. Thoreau’s observations of nature enrich all of his work, even his essays on political topics. Images and comparisons based on his studies of animal behavior, of the life cycles of plants, and of the features of the changing seasons illustrate and enliven the ideas he has brought forth that nature is made up of interrelated parts. He is considered by many to be the father of the environmental movement.

 

  • Henry David Thoreau’s Poetry
  • Henry David Thoreau’s Quotes

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