To use his own words, Henry David Thoreau "marched to the beat of a different drummer." A veritable individual and original thinker, Thoreau went into the woods in order to ponder the meaning of his existence; he went deliberately in order to learn from Nature, and to
front 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.
While in the woods, Thoreau observed warring ants and praises their "pertinacity." During his encounter with a loon, Thoreau is outsmarted by nature:
But why, after displaying so much cunning, did he invariably betray himself the moment he came up by that loud laugh?
He left the woods, he declared, for much the same reason; he had begun to fall into the most trivial of pursuits:
It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.
On political issues, Thoreau was thoroughly an independent thinker, as well. This independence and fearlessness of Thoreau's nature led him to speak out actively according to his moral sensibilities. For instance, he supported the Abolitionists long before doing so had any popularity. In 1845, following the example of Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, Thoreau went to prison rather than pay a poll tax to a government that "countenanced war and slavery." His quiet resistance to what he considered an oppressive government influenced great leaders such as Mohandas Gandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who practiced the same passive resistance.
Clearly ahead of his times, Thoreau was not appreciated for his thinking until after his death. To this day, there is a Thoreau society that works toward the preservation of Walden and other natural areas.