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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
_____ 1. For Thoreau the Walden adventure was essentially
B. a demonstration of his independent spirit
C. an attempt to find the height and depth of his inner self
B. maintenance of a strict regimen
C. elimination of all but the most basic social contacts
B. necessary to existence
C. debasing man's higher nature
B. the tranquil night
C. dependent on an individual's mood
B. two years
C. three years
B. work usually prevents men from realizing their inner potential
C. happiness is God-given rather than attained by human effort
B. his "withdrawing room... behind my house"
C. on the shore of the pond
B. runaway slaves
C. both A and B
11. What is the experiment that is conducted in Walden, why is it conducted, and does it succeed?
12. Discuss Walden Pond as the principal symbol in the book. What does it symbolize and how does its role change during the course of the book?
13. Define slavery as seen in Walden.
14. What relation does the structure of the book have to the natural world?
15. In what ways does Thoreau's experiment depend on civilization?
_____ 1. Thoreau's pleasure in the bean-field he harvested is that
B. he has learned the lost art of "true husbandry," which concentrates on studied cultivation rather than material gain
C. its profits afforded him the means to complete his stay at Walden
B. is jailed for refusing to pay a tax
C. loses his way in the deep woods
B. despite their hard work life has brought the Fields little
C. men's shadows morning and evening reach farther than their daily steps
B. must be controlled in the unending struggle between good and evil
C. gives us the strength to become all that nature has intended
B. the dehumanizing spectacle of the drunkards in the village
C. drudgery and savagery of life among the common village folk
B. brings him equal though different opportunities, compared to other seasons, to realize his goal
C. leaves him less contented in his desire to be one with nature
B. ideas that Thoreau lives by finding their way to other cities
C. fact that he has entertained visitors from many places
B. that some men march to a different drummer
C. that we need not tolerate dullness when there is constant novelty in the world
C. both A and B
B. be a kindred spirit who has learned to commune with nature
C. be unhappy with the world
11. If it had been possible for Thoreau to return completely to primitive life, would he have done so? What is the evidence? Explain.
12. Discuss some of the problems that are not resolved in Walden.
13. Discuss the dynamic of Walden, its movement from the single fact to the universal truth. Give examples of both thoughts and metaphors in which this is shown.
14. Discuss Thoreau's use of time in Walden.
15. Discuss the bean-field in Walden.
11. In answering this question you should first present the facts: Thoreau built his own house and lived alone at Walden for two years doing only as much work as was necessary to meet his expenses. Review some of the principles expressed in the first chapter, "Economy," in terms of his life- style while at Walden Pond. Then present the philosophy behind the facts: Thoreau's wish to live "as deliberately as Nature," and to make himself rich by making his wants few. For this part of the essay, consult Chapter 2, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For."
In trying to decide whether it was a success or a failure, think about the rest of the book, the "Conclusion" in particular. There Thoreau tells you what the experiment achieved. You might wish to consider, too, that the "experiment" did not last forever.
12. Discuss this symbol from a number of angles. Go into the many times that bathing in the pond is a symbol of baptism and renewal ("Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" and "The Village"). Discuss the images of the pond as an organ of vision ("Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," "The Ponds," and "The Pond in Winter") as well as the images of connection between heaven and earth that are found in these chapters. Keep in mind the cycle that the pond follows during the year, and compare this to the phases that Thoreau himself goes through.
13. Walden was written before the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, and slavery was very much an issue at the time. Thoreau mentions in Walden (in "Visitors") that one of his visitors was a runaway slave, whom he helped. Refer to the chapter "Economy" in which Thoreau portrays men as slaves to the necessities of life as they earn money to pay their rent and buy food. Mention the image in that chapter of the wealthy in their gold and silver fetters. And discuss his remarks, also in this chapter, about the "keen and subtle masters that enslave both North and South," and about Negro slavery being a foreign form of servitude in comparison.
14. Both the actual experiment and the book begin in the spring, a time of rebirth and renewal on earth. Thoreau collapses his stay of two years into one for the purposes of telling the story. Notice how the book makes a complete cycle from one spring to another, and the man does too. Discuss the symbolism involved in this cyclical structuring (which involves everything from the pond to the house).
15. This question should be answered on two levels. The first is practical. Thoreau used tools, information, and techniques that are the products of civilization in the building of his house and the surveying of the area of Walden Pond (see "The Pond in Winter"). His path to town is the railroad track.
The second level is spiritual. Thoreau, in his search for elevation, drew on the wisdom of the past, as all Transcendentalists would. His mental state was influenced by Eastern mysticism and the classics, what he calls in "Reading" the "trophies of civilization."
11. Much of the evidence you need to answer this question will come from the chapter "Visitors" in which Thoreau describes a Canadian woodchopper who was often in the forest. Thoreau discusses this man in great detail, gives you a pretty good idea of how he feels about a human being who is so "natural." You might also want to consider the chapter "Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors," and who it is who finally lightens up Thoreau's winter, as well as the chapters "Reading" and "Higher Laws."
12. The parts of the book that will be most useful in answering this question are the end of Chapter 11, "Higher Laws," and the beginning of Chapter 12, "Brute Neighbors." The conflict between the desire for harmony with the natural world and the wildness and sensuality that exist in that world is well expressed here. You might want to consider the Transcendentalist position on the senses when explaining the statement that nature must be overcome.
13. It would be helpful here to follow the image of the sun in the book, from the remark that Thoreau has his own sun, moon, and stars, to the one about the same sun illuminating his bean-field as illuminates another world. Discuss this as a movement from a consideration of the individual to a consideration of society.
14. In an essay on this topic you could consider time from a number of angles. It could be broken down into different units of time and discussed accordingly. Thoreau discusses morning as the best season of the day (in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For") and later amplifies that image in a discussion of all parts of the day ("Spring"). He has much to say about the seasons, and the structure of the book should also be a factor in your discussion. And throughout the book (especially in "Economy" and "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For") he mentions time as something that must not be wasted.
15. Any discussion of the bean-field should be twofold. In "Economy" Thoreau introduces the bean-field as a factor in his system of economy, a means of generating income. He supplies you with all the figures on its profits.
In "The Bean-Field" it takes on another importance- that of a link between what is wild in nature and what is cultivated. As a symbol it is important for that reason. Be sure to review this chapter before answering the question.
TERM PAPER IDEAS
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.