Walden Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

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Contrast Thoreau's Walden with Emerson's "Self-Reliance."

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Both Walden and "Self-Reliance" stress the individual's need to not be overly concerned with social conformity. "Self-Reliance" accomplishes this directly. Emerson implores his readership not to accept something just because tradition or society at large demands the individual to accept it. Integrity becomes the gold standard for Emerson's idea of a meaningful life—to profess things one does not believe (or as Emerson might put it, to imitate others) will only lead to misery and an inauthentic lifestyle.

In Walden, a much longer work than "Self-Reliance," Thoreau does not directly comment on the individual versus society but does so implicitly. He seeks to live simply in the wilderness by Walden Pond, away from the business of the social world in Concord. The book was largely intended as a social experiment, but Thoreau has much to say about how independence can be liberating for the individual.

Both works are concerned with living life deeply. "Self-Reliance" argues that this can only be...

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