On what page is Thoreau's passage beginning "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"?

There are many editions of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, so it is better to identify the location of this passage as being found in about the sixteenth paragraph of the book's second chapter.

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With the advent of Internet resources and e-books, page number references have become less useful. Further, Thoreau's Walden has appeared in countless editions over the decades, and each of these is paginated in a slightly different way.

Therefore, it is more helpful to identify the location of a passage in an alternate way. This quotation, beginning with “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” is found in the second chapter of Walden (entitled “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”) in about the sixteenth paragraph.

Let's take a few moments to reflect on the meaning of this quotation, which tells us why Thoreau decided to leave society and live in the woods. He wishes, he says, “to live deliberately.” He wants to take control of his own life, to be conscious of every aspect of it, and to appreciate living while avoiding the distractions that can so easily creep in.

Further, Thoreau wants to focus on the “essential facts of life,” what is really important rather than all the little, insignificant details that can grasp our minds and hearts and pull us away from the basics. Thoreau wants to get back to the basics.

Thoreau also wants to learn from his life. He wants to take time for reflection, to ponder his experiences so far and draw out lessons from them. This is difficult to do when one is busy with many things, so Thoreau will set aside much of his activity and sit quietly and learn.

Finally, Thoreau wants to make sure that he is truly living. He does not want to reach the end of his life and find himself filled with regret at all the opportunities he has lost. He wants to plunge himself into life and discover what it is really about before he dies.

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As the above answer indicates, this quote is in chapter 2, about 15 or 16 paragraphs in. The page on which you find it will differ depending on the edition you are using. But if you search the middle part of chapter 2, you will come to it fairly easily.

The passage is perhaps the most famous in Walden. In it, Thoreau summarizes, in memorable prose, why he chooses to spend the time he does living by Walden Pond. He says he wants to learn what life really is about, unmediated by all the busyness and consumer goods that screen us from life's essential core. Is life a good ("sublime") thing or a bad ("mean") thing? He wants to know the answer to that question, and the only way he can find out, he believes, is to strip living of all its non-essentials. "Simplify, simplify" he writes. That way you can be sure you are facing the important things in life, not the mere distractions. You can be sure you are living, and not simply existing or sleepwalking through a life someone else has devised for you.

The passage is worth quoting at length. Thoreau writes:

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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

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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. 

The passage to which your question refers is to be found in Chapter 2 of Walden, which is titled "Where I Lived and What I Lived For." There are, of course, many editions of Thoreau's book and the full quote will appear on different pages in different editions. In my paperback Dover Thrift Edition of Walden; or, Life in the Woods, the passage appears on page 59. This is about halfway through Chapter 2. However, it is easy to find it in the eNotes study guide for Walden, which contains the complete eText of the book. You can get to the eNotes study guide by clicking on the reference link below. The eNotes study guide for Walden also contains many pages of valuable reference material.

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