In order to demonstrate the value of living simply, Thoreau shows how civilized man has become a slave to his possessions. How does Thoreau support this generalization?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first section, "Economy" of Walden, Thoreau writes that men who spend all their labor and efforts on accumulating superfluous things end up missing out on the adventure of life, which is based on life's essentials. "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind." What Thoreau means is that if you spend most of your time working, especially working for more than what you need, then your thoughts and efforts are consumed by this life of production of "things." This leaves little to no time to entertain thoughts about life and nature. Thoreau notes that the fruits of a life of luxury are luxuries. The fruits of a life of philosophy and genuine experience are wisdom and independence. In short, if you spend most of your life working to obtain "stuff," then that is what your life is about. If you spend your time in pursuit of love, knowledge and wisdom, then that is what your life is about.