Reread this quotation from near the end of Walden. Many a forenoon have I stolen away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher’s desk. Explain this quotation. Be sure to address the “wealth” Thoreau claims, his use of that wealth, and his views of the workshop or school  

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When you consider that Thoreau was a transcendentalist, and could loosely be considered an American "philosopher" you have to address this question in the terms that here he is speaking metaphorically.  Certainly "I was rich, if not in money," is key to understanding this quote.

Think about it.  The entire book is Thoreau's reflection on life, beauty, love, and purpose/meaning through the context of contemplation on Walden Pond (nature).  Rather than spending that time inside, in a book, working for a living, educating himself traditionally in order to perhaps promote a career, or even spending time traditionally speaking and teaching others, Thoreau was alone, outside, listening to nature, thinking, and writing.

Two questions to ask yourself which will help you come up with a personal answer to your teacher's question are these:

  1. Does Thoreau seem to regret the time he spent on Walden pond?  Why or why not?
  2. Given his feelings on the time he spent alone in nature, what do you believe Thoreau would claim as the most important things in life?

I think if you can answer the above questions, you will successfully explain the quote, and it will your answer, which is exactly what your teacher is looking for.  Good luck.

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