Since Walden is, on one hand, a sort of spiritual autobiography, Thoreau himself is its central character. The narrator of Walden resembles Thoreau in many ways, but is also a distinct narrative persona. The real Thoreau was a much pricklier personality than the sunny tone of the book indicates. Thoreau as narrator is an apologist for Transcendentalist beliefs and for the rights of eccentric personalities to live as they choose. But privately, as entries in his personal journal have indicated, Thoreau did not always feel that nature held the answer to most social and spiritual problems.
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited forms, houses, bams, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.
The Transcendentalists believed that the human mind had sources of knowledge—such as conscience or an inner light—that were independent of or transcended the senses. Emerson became the foremost thinker among those who endorsed such views, and helped found the Transcendentalist Club, a loose, informal group that often met at his house in Concord. Like other members of this club, Thoreau believed that humans were basically good, and that nature was benign and favored humankind. By keeping themselves pure, and through a close relationship with nature, people could perfect themselves and grow in the knowledge already granted them through the inner light. Thoreau set out to live...
(The entire section is 522 words.)