Henry David Thoreau

Category: Written by Nerella Bharat / 10:41 PM
Students should understand the biography of Thoreau. This essay is a good example of a
biography. The whole essay can be divided into 5 or 6 parts, each part dealing with one aspect of Thoreau's life and personality.

Paragraphs 1 to 6 make part - I - The early life of Thoreau
Paragraphs 7 to 10 make part - II - Youth of Thoreau
Paragraph 11 to 15 make part - III - His life in the forest
Paragraph 16 to 18 make part - IV - His own beliefs
Paragraph 19 to 21 make part - V - His simplicity in life
Paragraph 22 to 24 make part - VI - old age to Thoreau.

Let's discuss in brief about them.
The early life of Thoreau: 
Thoreau led a free and simple life. He didn't work hard for earning and spent most of his time in studying, that too in the library. He never followed an organised course of study. He said that man should work only one day a week to earn his living and keep the remaining days for joy and not for getting money, property and power. He considered work a poor way to spend one's time and believed that such effort was foolish when compared with the enjoyment of nature.

 
  1. Youth of Thoreau:
    Thoreau rebelled against the conventions of his society because he believed that people should act according to their beliefs and should not do anything just because it was the accepted thing to do.
  2. His life in the forest: He worte his book 'Walden' about his experiences in the forest. He wanted to prove that the best way to learn the true value of life was to live simply, rather thatn to live the way most people lived in towns and cities. He never locked his door. He entertained many visitors.
  3. His own beliefs: Though the amount of the tax was small, he thought that he shouldn't support the Government which allowed followed slavery to exist or waged war. For this reason he was arrested and put in prison. He says that "That government is best which governs not at all'. If a Government bases its actions on what is necessary rather than on what is right, it is the duty of the individual to disobey the Government and follow his own conscience. This is known as Civil Disobedience.
  4. Simplicity in the life of Thoreau: He thought that people who rush for gold are fools. In his opinion, the person who has gathered worthless things but do not know how to use them, or get rid of them and thus has made his own gold or silver chains is the poorest man of all.
  5. Old age of Thoreau: He loved freedom and lived independently. He always followed his own conscience. His writings were as simple as his way of life. He practised what he preached and lived what he work.
1. Notice how the biography begins with a reference to the American revolutionary war, also called American War of independence What significance does the reference give to Thoreau's life?The American Revolutionary war upheld the liberty of the Negroes. It was fought for some noble principles. Thoreau also fought for individual liberty throughout his life. So the reference is appropriate.

2. One quality of Thoreau's character was his unconventional behaviour. How is this suggested in the description of his parentage, appearance and early life? Thoreau's father was part French and his mother was the daughter of a New England priest. Thoreau was tough and strong, but not handsome. He had a short body with long legs and a big nose. His manners were also extremely awkward.

3. 'Independent man' that's what Thoreau was. How? Why? Thoreau was not impressed by the ideas or action of others. He acted according to his own beliefs. He loved his independence and thought that his independence would solve some of the problems of his life and be an example to others. Even as a young man Thoreau showed love for free an simple life. He refused to beat pupils as was the custom. He believed that men lived senseless lives, Emerson encouraged him to continue a life as free and independent as his belief.

4. "Thoreau really loved humanity: He was not a cynic. But he always annoyed society. Why was it necessary for him to do so?Thoreau believed that a man should act in accordance with his beliefs. He should not do any thing just because it was the accepted thing to do so. He rebelled against the conventions of his society though he loved humanity.

5. What are the views of Thoreau on work?He considered work a poor way to spend one's time and believed that such effort was foolish. One should work less and enjoy nature more. One should work only one day during the week and keep the rest of it for joy and wonder.

6. Why was Thoreau unsuccessful as a teacher? He was unsuccessful as a teacher because, he refused to beat the pupils, as the custome of that time required. The teaching profession limited his freedom to observe and study.

7. Who were "Transcendentalists"? Transcendentalists were a group of writers and thinkers. They followed the ideas of some German Philosophers.

8. Who was Ralph Waldo Emerson? He was a great American Philosopher. He was the leader of the transcendentalists.

9. What did Thoreau live at Walden? Thoreau wanted to lead an independent life. He lived at Walden because he wanted to see whether he could be happy by living close to nature without any possession.

10. What were Thoreau's views on Government?
As per Thoreau's views, the best organisation of society would be one in which individuals should make their own moral choices. They were not bound by the decisions of the majorty. The Government which governs the least of which governs not at all, is the best government. If a government acts on own decisions other than the people's interests, it is the duty of the individual to disobey the government and should follow his own conscience.

11. What view of Thoreau influenced Gandhiji? His views of passive resistance i.e., opposition without the use of force or violence influenced Gandhiji in his fight for Indian Independence.

12. What is the main message of Thoreau book Walden? How did Thoreau influence Gandhiji?Thoreau wrote his book 'Walden' about his experiences in the woods. He wanted to prove that the best way to learn the true value of life was to live simply, rather than to live the way most people live in towns and cities. He did not believe that labour, property and responsibility made man better or more spiritual. Thoreau influenced Gandhiji with his doctrine of passive resistance.

13. What were the principle which Thoreau lived by? Thoreau showed love for free life. He said that man should work only one day a week to earn his living and keep the remaining days for joy and not for getting money, property and power. He wanted people to act on their own beliefs. One need not blindly follow local traditions. He developed the idea of passive resistance.

14. One quality of Henry David Thoreau's character was his unconvention behaviour. Can you give one example of this? Thoreau led a free and simple life. He believed that men lived senseless lives. He did not work hard for earning and spent most of his time in studying, that too in the library. Besides, he never followed an organized course of study.

15. Why did Thoreau rebel against the conventions of his society? Was it necessary for him to do so? Thoreau reveled against the conventions of his society because he believed that people should act according to their believes and should not do anything just because it was the accepted thing to do. He also believed that one need not blindly follow conventions. As a free man it was necessary for his to do so.

16. Emerson said that Thoreau was "the only freeman in his town". Why do you think Emerson said so? Thoreau showed love for free life even from his young age. He was not impressed by the actions or ideas of others. He follow his own beliefs. His ideas, actions and beliefs were one. He never hesitated to express his ideas frankly. So Emerson and said Thoreau was the only freeman in his town.

17. Describe at least three characterstics that made Thoreau a unique man? Thoreau liked independent life. He felt that enjoyment of nature is the purpose of life. Further he said that man need not follow the customs blindly and should act on the dictates of his conscience. So independence, enjoyment and conscience are the chrematistics that made Thoreau a unique man.

18. What is Thoreau's contribution to political though? Thoreau's contribution to political though is Civil Disobedience. He says that if a government bases its actions on what is necessary rather than what is right, it is the duty of the individual to disobey the government and follow his own conscience. This gives way to passive resistance.
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