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In Walden, what does Thoreau mean by his comment, "It makes but little difference...

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rylee3 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 14, 2012 at 8:48 AM via web

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In Walden, what does Thoreau mean by his comment, "It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 14, 2012 at 2:51 PM (Answer #1)

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As with any question that asks you to talk about the importance of a particular quote or section of a text, it is vitally important that you look at both what comes before and after that quote in order to make sure that you understand it correctly. This is called examining the quote in context. If we have a look at the line prior to this quote, we can see how this is shown to operate:

As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.

Thoreau is writing about the dangers of commitment and how this can actually inhibit you from living your life in a way that is in opposition to the "quiet desperation" that is evident in the life of so many. Thoreau basically argues that it doesn't matter to what you are committed. This could be to either a farm or to a jail. What concerns Thoreau, and what he writes about, is the fact that the very commitment that you display will impact your ability to live the kind of life that he espouses in this text.

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