Henry David Thoreau

1930 Words Jul 13th, 2018 8 Pages
Biographical Summary
Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, and was the son of John Thoreau, a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar (“Henry…” Ency. of World). Growing up in a “modest New England family,” Thoreau was one of four children and was accustomed to living practically (McElroy). As his family was “permanently poor,” he came to accept a moderate lifestyle, which may have later influenced his thoughts on the necessities of life (“Henry…” Ency. of World). As a child, he enjoyed exploring nature and was fascinated by its beauty. In his novel Walden, he remarks that “every morning was a cheerful invitation to make [his] life of equal simplicity… with Nature herself,” and even contemplates that “[he had]
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of World). His abolitionist efforts and support of civil disobedience were a large part of the legacy he left behind. He did not advocate violence, but instead encouraged the defense of what is true and good. Though his works were not very popular when he was alive, his “writings and philosophy greatly influenced many important world figures... the reformer Leo Tolstoy of Russia, Mohandas Gandhi of India, Martin Luther King Jr., and other leaders of the U.S.Civil Rights Movement were inspired by Thoreau's ideas” (“Thoreau…” West’s).

Critical Analysis Henry David Thoreau was an influential writer, abolitionist, and leader of the transcendentalist movement. Through his work, he emphasizes the intriguing pursuit of personal truth beyond societal definitions. His sagacious observations about human nature are admirable, and his explanation of the corruption of society is thought-provoking. Though he advocates individualism, he seems to doubt humans’ ability to completely remove themselves from society, as this way of life demands. In his novel Walden, he says, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (Thoreau 5). Thoreau sees the laboring men of his society, and after concluding that they are ignorant, claims that “it is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before” (Thoreau 3). Loren Eiseley, a natural science writer, said that Thoreau “sometimes had difficulty in seeing men or, by contrast, sometimes saw them too
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