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What advice does Thoreau offer to those who live in poverty?

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bartmax | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 24, 2009 at 8:52 PM via web

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What advice does Thoreau offer to those who live in poverty?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 24, 2009 at 10:06 PM (Answer #1)

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There might have to be some qualification needed here.  Thoreau is quite strong on his assertions that material wealth and the drive for materialism helps to get in the way of understanding the nature of truth(s) and self:"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind."  This helps to highlight much of how Thoreau views wealth.  Poverty, if chosen and self initiated, can lead to a better understanding, in Thoreau's mind, of how life should be as opposed to how it is.  The drive for "simplicity" and the notion of leading a life where material exploits are not as valued as spiritual notions of the good is a critical one.  Thoreau makes the active decision in pursuing this life.  It is not very clear how Thoreau addresses how material inequality dictated by social conditions impacts this pursuit for truth and understanding.

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