What is Thoreau's main argument in "Why I Went to the Woods," in Walden?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For Thoreau, the rationale behind going into the woods was a desire to find his own voice.  This voice is one that must be heard by being away from a social setting.  It is here where I think that Thoreau's rationale is evident:

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.

This desire to "live deliberately" looms large as to why Thoreau went into the woods.  The personification of the woods as an instructor whose lessons were to be taught to Thoreau helps to explain another reason why Thoreau goes into the woods.  The idea of "living life" to its fullest is identified with the woods, the realm away from the social setting.  In this, Thoreau understands clearly the motivation he has for going into the woods and rejecting the social settings and embracing the life in the woods.


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