Many of Henry David Thoreau's reflections upon his venture into the woods to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life," in order to clear his mind and learn what Nature "had to teach" him, still resound today.
In areas where wild game inhabit the woods, deer hunters and such often sit for hours in tree lofts as they wait for the prey to pass through the area they are occupying. As they sit alone in those trees, certain individuals have expressed how peaceful they feel in the woods as the early morning sun shines through the tall pines or birches, etc. They also feel as those they have cleared their minds of many stressful thoughts, and they have enjoyed shutting off cell phones so that they can have real peace.
Other individuals enjoy hiking on paths at National or State parks and such. This, too, is relaxing as people hear only the sounds of birds singing and the wind ruffling the leaves of trees. For example, Robert Frost and his friend, about whom he wrote "The Road Not Taken," regularly walked through woods; Charles Darwin had a path on his property, much of which was wooded, on which he walked and kicked a small stone to the side as a counter of his laps. He claimed to have done some of his most important thinking on this path (Source: The Origin: A Biographical Novel of Charles Darwin by Irving Stone).
There is no question that Thoreau's urging to "Simplify, simplify, simplify" is extremely essential to peace of mind. Having too much clutters one's life, causes stress as something breaks down, pulling people into different directions as they have other responsibilities as well. And too much emphasis upon materialism is harmful as people ignore their spiritual needs. The 14th Dalai Lama (Tibbetan Buddist) asks how something which a person owns on the outside of himself can nurture what is on the inside. Indeed, material objects do not nurture the soul. The spirit of man, just like the body, needs nurturing and room to express itself. As a suggestion for an essay, "Life in the Woods" develops this theme of spiritual nurturing and expression.
1. How does the role of aspects of nature (light/dark, cycles of seasons) contribute to lessons Thoreau wishes to teach?
2. Is Thoreau a leader? Why or why not?
3. Do you think the time-limited aspect of the experiment affects the results and lessons taught? Why or why not?
4. How does Thoreau develop throughout the book? Cite evidence from the text to suggest this transformation.
5. What is the significance of Walden Pond?