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Why did Thoreau choose to live on Walden Pond and write Walden?

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Thoreau lived on the shore of Walden Pond in order to enjoy a life of “simplicity.” He believed that people often became slaves to the things they own, so he sought to own less and spend more of his time enjoying himself rather than working to pay for material things. He wrote Walden in order to share this experience with others.

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Thoreau saw what he felt was a sort of terrible tragedy being played out in the lives of most people. Society encourages people to buy large houses, houses they do not need. Then, those people must work much more than would be necessary if they had simply bought a small home and fewer material objects. Society encourages people to keep up with the latest fashions, and this costs money: money that the average person must work harder to earn. And, for what? Only to have these things?

Thoreau felt it would be better for people to “simplify” their lives, to own less so that they can enjoy more. If one buys a small house, keeping only the necessities, then one can work fewer hours in the day and spend more of one’s hours doing whatever one enjoys: reading, writing, walking, swimming, exploring, and so on. To that end, he writes,

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation …. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.

Thoreau claims that we have resigned ourselves to the rat race—to the constant need to acquire, to own more—and that we can simply choose to opt out, so to speak, of these values.

So, he moved to the woods at Walden Pond to practice what he preached. He built a ten-by-fifteen-foot cabin with only a bed, a desk, and a chair or two, and he kept a garden to grow much of his food. He lived there for two years, two months, and two days, and he later wrote Walden because so many people inquired about his experiences.

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Thoreau lived on the shore of Walden Pond because he wanted to try living simply as a sort of experiment. He felt that most people lead very unhappy lives due to societal pressures to do too much and live too expensively. Everyone works hard to acquire money, success, and luxuries, but none of these things make them happy. Materialism and the societal rat race only lead to an empty and stressful life consumed by "details," as Thoreau famously puts it, one wasted in the pursuit of a kind of wealth and prestige that cannot be taken with you after death. Noticing this, Thoreau decided to live as simply as possible: he set up a small cabin with a minimal amount of furniture and grew his own food in a garden.

By "living deliberately" like this for a little over two years, Thoreau worked less and had more time to do the things he enjoyed, like reading and writing. By retreating from society's influence, he was able to live more fully and realize what matters in the long run. He wrote the book Walden in order to share his experiences and insights with other people who were curious about what he was trying to do.

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Thoreau moved to the woods of Walden Pond to learn to live deliberately. He desired to learn what life had to teach him. He moved to the woods to experience a purposeful life. He did not want to have lived his whole life and not truly have lived:

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.

While living in the woods, Thoreau desired to simplify his life. He claims that too many people's lives are "frittered away by details." No doubt, Thoreau enjoyed his simplistic life, claiming that all men need to simplify their lives:

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.

Specifically, Thoreau did learn that one meal a day would suffice. He learned that a few plates are better than "a hundred dishes." Simple living is the key to a fulfilled life.

Thoreau wrote Walden to share his experiences gained while living in the woods. He desired to help others understand that a simplified life is a meaningful life. No doubt, he learned to live intentionally while keeping a record for posterity. He wrote a detailed account:

Walden (1854), is an eloquent account of his experiment in near-solitary living in close harmony with nature; it is also an expression of his transcendentalist philosophy.

At the very heart of Walden is one man's ability to move away from materialistic living and experience living off the natural land. Today, we have his masterpiece which gives us a idealistic view of living life in a simple manner:

In solitude, simplicity, and living close to nature, Thoreau had found what he believed to be a better life.

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For what reasons did Thoreau write "Walden"?

At the beginning of the chapter titled, "Economy," Thoreau himself says that one major reason for his writing Walden is because so many people were curious about his life, specifically the two years and two months he spent living in the woods at Walden Pond. He writes that some "very particular inquiries had . . .  been made by [his] townsmen regarding [his] mode of life . . ." Further, many asked about what he ate while he lived alone in the woods, if he ever got lonely, what he did with his income, and so forth.  

Moreover, Thoreau writes that he "require[s] of every writer . . . a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives." He says that he is confined to writing about himself because it is what he knows best. He hopes that his readers "will accept such portions as apply to them." In other words, Thoreau intends to write a book that he would respect were it written by someone else, and he hopes that he writes things that other people will find helpful in their own lives.

In addition, he is concerned because, as he says,

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of . . . Who made them serfs of the soil . . . Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?

Put differently, Thoreau sees that most people live a life that they do not find fulfilling. They are tied down by their possessions when a life of simplicity would be more satisfying because a person wouldn't have to spend their entire life working to acquire more or to support and maintain those extras they do have.  

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For what reasons did Thoreau write "Walden"?

According to Thoreauvian Ken Kifer, Thoreau's "Walden" was published to express his philosophy of life.  Rather than having the desire to live a life with a goal of the acquisition of wealth, Thoreau saw the goal of life to be the exploration of the mind and the magnificent world around people. His voyage through life was much more inward than that of many others:

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 ie 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 practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

Thoreau wished to find the "whole and genuine" meaning of life and not spend his life in frivolous details.  He offers an alternative solution to the consumer life, the dependent life.  The self-reliant man, Thoreau explains, has the strength to choose his own course in life, solving his own problems himself.  He did not live to acquire money; instead, he desired Life's experience and appreciation for the beauty of Nature.  He is tolerant to others around him and pure in mind.

However, Thoreau's observations and conclusions are often tangled with metaphors and hyperboles, paradoxes, sarcasm, and double entendres.  Because of the use of these literary devices, Walden is sometimes abstruse.  See the site listed below for help.

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What is Thoreau's main argument for why he went into the woods in Walden?

Knowing that Thoreau is a Transcendentalist helps a lot in understanding why he chooses to go out into the woods. Nature is supremely important to the Transcendentalists because they believe there is knowledge available that transcends what a person can acquire through classroom learning. That transcendent knowledge can be gained through a person's inherent connection to nature. The thinking is that because nature is a part of God, and people are a part of nature, God must be a part of every individual as well. By going out into the woods, Thoreau is trying to better experience and learn about God. To a Transcendentalist, busy and complex cities and societies simply get in the way of the natural and spiritual connections that can be found in nature.

Thoreau explains his intentions quite beautifully at one point.

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.

In Thoreau’s opinion, there is no other place for him to go other than nature in order to learn about what is essential living. He further clarifies his intentions about living “deliberately” by explaining that he wants “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” In other words, he wants to live life to the fullest before he dies. It’s quite similar to today’s culture giving the reason of “you only live once” for doing something risky and spontaneous.

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What is Thoreau's main argument for why he went into the woods in Walden?

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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