In "Why I Went to the Woods" in Walden, what does he mean when he says "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth"?
In our analysis of this quote, let us remember the overall thrust of Thoreau's argument and what he is trying to suggest. Thoreau went to the woods to escape what he saw as the insincerity and superficial nature of civilisation. He found that living by himself forced him into a deeper relationship with himself, with nature and with his mystical awareness of divine realities. In conflict with this, he thought that society, with its focus on gaining love, money and fame, was something that detracted from the ultimate realities of life and the truth of our existence as humans. These frivolous, passing emotions and feelings only serve to distract us as humans from what, in Thoreau's opinion, we should be focusing on, which is ourselves and the ultimate truth of our identities.
This quote therefore plays an important part in making the strident call in Thoreau's "Conclusion" for humanity to live to the beat of a different drum and to reject the superficial values of society. Let us remember the image that Thoreau uses to point out this different way of living:
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Following truth as opposed to love, money and fame, which Thoreau saw as being in conflict with the pursuit of truth, is something that was essential for man if he is to live in harmony with himself, with nature, and with God.