Published in 1854, Thoreau’s Walden focuses on the author’s experiences of living in a cabin near Walden Pond, in the woods owned by his mentor and friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the text, Thoreau describes his social experiment, reflects upon simple living in natural surroundings, and seeks to understand existence. The project was inspired by the philosophy of transcendentalism and, in particular, Emerson’s works.
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Freedom, determination, and independence from society were the essential themes that Emerson developed. Thus, in his famous speech given on August 31, 1837, Emerson proclaims the necessity to act, not only think. He argues that “action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential” (Emerson). In its turn, Self-Reliance highlights the importance of following one’s intuitions and thoughts, rather than public norms: “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” (Emerson). Thoreau’s social experiment’s very essence is the realization of the ideas presented by Emerson in The American Scholar and Self-Reliance. He lived in the forest for over two years, without any support, to show that the meaning of life and social processes can be better understood while one is on his own. Last but not least, in his experiment, Walden was influenced by Emerson’s Nature. The essay’s key theme was the importance of revealing the truth about the order of the universe by one’s life experience. Thoreau went to the woods to “front only the essential facts of life” (Thoreau) to break free from society’s false values, thereby going closer to nature and God.
In Walden, Thoreau describes his experiences of living in the wood owned by his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. This social experiment that lasted more than two years was inspired by the philosophy of transcendentalism and, in particular, Emerson’s works. The most important ideas that influenced Thoreau’s project were the importance of action, freedom from social norms, and the possibility to answer the questions about the order of the universe by one’s life experience.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance”, American Transcendentalism Web,
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “The American Scholar.” EmersonCentral, 2020. Web.
Thoreau, Henry David. “Walden”, The Project Gutenberg, 2018, Web.