What lesson does Thoreau use in describing the bug in the wood?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Thoreau's example of the bug appears near the very end of Walden. The Transcendentalist presents the story as a familiar anecdote, saying that "every one has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England" as he introduces it. In this way he again establishes familiarity with the reader, particularly Concord locals, as he specifically focuses on New England lore. The table, from which the bug emerges, "had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts" and was "from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still." The bug was hatched by the heat emanating from an urn and gnawed "for several weeks" in order to free itself. The anecdote allows Thoreau to speculate on how one responds to chance. The bug was hatched unexpectedly, and, even though it was born sixty years out of its time, it gnaws its way toward a completely unknown world. Some people may be afraid to enter into an uncertain time or place; Thoreau's bug not only welcomes the opportunity but fights for it, and its new existence will also benefit the world that will get to finally include its "beautiful and winged life." Thoreau believes that we should all be like the bug, fighting for the chance at life, no matter how unfamiliar and unexpected it may be, until finally "enjoy[ing] its perfect summer at last!"

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Walden, Thoreau uses the image of an egg becoming a bug emerging from a 60-year-old table to show how change can occur, and that one’s true self can be resurrected and become renewed.  Like his isolation at Walden Pond changed and molded him into a person who lived his life “meanly”, so too can anyone learn to live the life they are meant to have.  For the small egg, it was destined to become a bug. Even though it took 60 years for it to happen, it did achieve its destiny or true being.  Thoreau’s pilgrimage to the shack in the woods shows the beginning of his transformation.  He, too, is like an egg waiting to discover himself.  And, even though he leaves Walden Pond for new adventures he says he is destined to find, he does “find himself” and matures and evolves into a different person through his experiences.  Like the egg that turned into a bug, Thoreau’s former self is altered by living alone in the woods of Walden Pond.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial