Assess the reasoning behind Thoreou's quote of "simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In understanding the America of Thoreau's time, I think that one can see much in way of relevance regarding his belief of "simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."  Thoreau keenly understood that commercialism and industrialization was taking a hold of America.  The building of the railroads and the desire to gain and consolidate wealth made that which is unreal as real.  It also helped to make that which should be real as viewed unreal.  For Thoreau, individuals were cluttering their lives with the trappings of wealth, the need to acquire objects and things, and over-extension in the realm of commerce led to conformity and using a spirit of freedom and independence precisely to a life that was devoid of it.  I think that this is where Thoreau's claim is most significant.  For Thoreau, the need to simplify enabled individuals to truly understand that which is important.  Moving away from the trappings of wealth and materialism is a part of this process.  Being able to simplify and reduce elements to that of a fingernail helps to establish that which is real and live for it.  In Thoreau's mind, such a call to simplify can help the process of establishing that which is real and moving away from what is unreal.  This reasoning makes sense given the historical context of his writing and the Transcendent claims of what constitutes reality as being a part of his motivation.

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