Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

As Sterling North’s Thoreau of Walden Pond reveals, the stoic New Englander Henry David Thoreau was truly unique, both as a philosopher in his age and as a historical figure in modern times. The true measure of Thoreau’s success is seen through the considerable influence that he has had on scores of American scholars and leaders, from poet Walt Whitman to civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. To that end, North liberally incorporates into the biography Thoreau’s own lively and vivid prose, primarily from Walden: Or, Life in the Woods (1854) but also from such lesser-known but equally valuable works as A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) and The Maine Woods (1864). This technique gives young readers a personal view of Thoreau’s philosophy and encourages them to delve into the author’s original works. Without such lively and stimulating prose examples, it would perhaps be difficult to justify a biography on an individual who, at least according to modern standards, accomplished little in his life. North shows through Thoreau’s prose, however, that Thoreau actually was living according to his (and all of humankind’s) true nature, which gives “a sense of peace and well-being.”

Thoreau lived in one of American history’s most intellectual communities: nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts. He was friends with many of the authors and philosophers associated with the movement called...

(The entire section is 465 words.)