How does Thoreau express self-reliance in Walden?

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Thoreau expresses the theme of self-reliance when he insists he wants to experience life for himself, fully and directly, not only read about it (though he likes to read) or experience it only through the protective layers of society. This desire to to see how little he needs to survive animates him. It is what motivates him to move to Walden Pond, to buy and reassemble a tiny house, to dig his cellar for his potatoes, and to spend, as he calculates, only $28.12 to set up his entire homestead. He plants about two and half acres with beans for a cash crop, but also a "small part" of it with potatoes, turnips, corn, and peas for his own use. He wants to rely on himself.

Perhaps the best articulation of his philosophy of self-reliance is in this famous passage, in which he talks about stripping away all the props and non-essentials in order to find life itself:

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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.

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Thoreau's idea of self- reliance can be seen in the stress on non- conformity.  Thoreau stresses the notion that there can be a transcendent conception of the good found in solitude.  The mere idea of existing in a solitude, apart from the societal vision of the good, is something that forces self- reliance.  Thoreau forces the reader to consider the idea that being apart from society requires a form of self- reliance, or independence of thought.  For Thoreau, society is something of a corrupting influence.  The need to conform silences the essence of the individual, something that Thoreau believes can be reclaimed in the realm of solitude.    In this solitude, Thoreau finds the purest form of companionship in the realm of nature.  The line that Thoreau uses of the "littlest pine needle" being his companion is something that Thoreau suggests helps to foster the theme of self- reliance.  Thoreau argues that this driving force to separate oneself from society into a realm of solitude is something that emphasizes reliance on oneself and a sense of independent thinking that is apart from the conformity of society.

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Discuss Emerson's theme of self-reliance in Thoreau's Walden.

Clearly the central themes of "Self-Reliance" by Emerson are very strongly expressed in Walden by Thoreau. Emerson's key argument in "Self-Reliance," for example, is of the evil of society and how society is set against self-reliance because of the way in which it is designed to support each member of it by a collective sacrifice of what makes them human. Consider this quote from Emerson's essay:

Society everywhere is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Clearly then, Emerson believes that society is something to avoid as it saps the ability of the individual to be self-reliant and to commune with nature. In the same way, in Thoreau's work, we see that he adopts Emerson's belief in his choice of abode and lifestyle:

When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbour, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labour of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months.

Thoreau's choice to live out Emerson's belief and make himself self-reliant by living an isolated life away from civilisation and the discoveries he is able to experience in nature as a result clearly elucidates Emerson's argument about society and how it represents the nemesis of self-reliance.

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