What was Henry Thoreau like?
Thoreau was a firm believer in Transcendentalism. This idea suggested that an emotional frame of reference needed to be appropriated in order to make sense of the world and one's place in it. Thoreau stressed individuality and breaking from the shackles of social conformity. His beliefs of hearing the inner voice that guides individual action towards a sense of justice that is pure and good are critical to his identity and his belief system. At the same time, Thoreau did not believe in human passivity, as he stressed that individuals are active agents in their world. Thoreau himself demonstrated this with his arrest and challenges to what he perceived as unjust laws.
Henry Thoreau, author of Walden, enters the American canon belatedly, and his celebration of nature was thought to be sentimental and dated, whereas his politics have been seminal, reappearing in Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Now, in an age of environmental awareness and nature writing, Thoreau's views on Walden Pond may well constitute a politics of their own. Thoreau's importance as writer transcends the ideological, however, because he has fashioned a breathtaking new language for portraying the life cycle itself in its natural processes. The most staggering passages in Walden seem to map out a new language and a new vision: to tell the human story and take the human measure by dint of a purely natural language. Thoreau's paean to spring, to the surging life force and life forms that he sees at Walden Pond, constitutes a radically new kind of discourse; this is his vision of hope.