Explain how Henry David Thoreau wanted people to live in nature in Walden.

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The book Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau is an autobiographical account of two years and two months that the author spent first building and then living in a small isolated cabin in the midst of woodlands near the shore of Walden Pond in Massachusetts....

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The book Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau is an autobiographical account of two years and two months that the author spent first building and then living in a small isolated cabin in the midst of woodlands near the shore of Walden Pond in Massachusetts. For literary purposes, Thoreau condensed his experience into a single year and described the four distinct seasons that he encountered. Thoreau did not write the book to convince people to go live in nature. Even for him, the time that he spent at Walden Pond was in the nature of a literary experiment in which he wanted to stress not only a love of nature, but also the values of simplicity, spiritual values, meditation, and self-awareness. He succinctly explains his motivations in chapter 2:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

In the conclusion to Walden, Thoreau clarifies the experimental nature of his sojourn at Walden Pond. He had no plan or desire to live in the midst of nature permanently. He writes:

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.

Also in the conclusion, Thoreau writes that he does not necessarily expect his readers to make any sort of physical change in their locations, but rather to search the inner landscape of the mind.

If you would learn to speak all tongues and conform to the customs of all nations, if you would travel farther than all travelers, be naturalized in all climes, and cause the Sphinx to dash her head against a stone, even obey the precept of the old philosopher, and Explore thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and the nerve.

Rather than make a change in environment, Thoreau urges his readers, no matter what state or location they are in, to be content.

Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts from before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.

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Thoreau's belief in transcendence and a quality of unity and harmony in one's life was nicely brought out in the previous thoughts.  I think that part of the desire in living in the natural setting was that Thoreau believed that this setting is the best to achieve the unity and transcendence that was ingrained in his thinking and belief systems.  To live in nature allowed for a sense of simplicity, and the best ability to see oneself mirrored in the unifying force that brings about all consciousness.  Thoreau argued that this setting, the natural one, is one where individuals are able to bring about a real sense of change and understanding to themselves and their world.  To break away from a conformist social setting, clouded with individuals trying to be something that their essence is not, Thoreau advocated for individuals to reclaim this sensibility of essence that was lost.  It is this very essence, this very idea, that causes Thoreau to want people to live a more simplified and essence driven existence.  This is probably going to be found in a natural setting or a realm apart from a social setting predicated upon wealth, social standing, and materialist upward mobility.

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Thoreau's message isn't necessarily to go live in the woods; granted, that is what he did, and he found the experience quite fulfilling.  Rather, his main messages center around the themes of simplifying your life, recognizing what is most important--which is not material goods or comforts, and in relying on oneself to be a moral, physical and emotional guide.  He feels that too many of us are too busy doing trivial things, and feels that "our lives are frittered away by detail."  He thinks that we really need to analyze what we spend our time doing, and whether or not they are truly meaningful.  If it isn't, cut it from our lives and live more simply and meaningfully.

Thoreau also believed that we put too much care and concern in what the world or others think of us, when the only person that really mattered was us.  He wanted us to stop worrying about fashion, culture, and what society dictated as right and wrong, and rather listen to our own hearts and consciences.  This school of thought was strongly supported by many individualists, a school of thought that Thoreau, and his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, belonged to.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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