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Henry David Thoreau




_____ 1. For Thoreau the Walden adventure was essentially

    A. an escape from civilized society
    B. a demonstration of his independent spirit
    C. an attempt to find the height and depth of his inner self
_____ 2. According to Thoreau, an important ingredient in reaching a union with nature is
    A. purification of the channels of perception
    B. maintenance of a strict regimen
    C. elimination of all but the most basic social contacts
_____ 3. Thoreau regarded the Puritan work ethic as
    A. ennobling man's nature
    B. necessary to existence
    C. debasing man's higher nature
_____ 4. For Thoreau the most memorable season of the day is
    A. the awakening hour
    B. the tranquil night
    C. dependent on an individual's mood
_____ 5. The time Thoreau actually spent at Walden was about
    A. one year
    B. two years
    C. three years
_____ 6. The imagery of the reptile shedding its skin is compared to
    A. spring
    B. summer
    C. autumn
_____ 7. "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" means that
    A. men are generally ill suited to their work but suffer in silence
    B. work usually prevents men from realizing their inner potential
    C. happiness is God-given rather than attained by human effort
_____ 8. Thoreau calculates the cost of his cabin was
    A. $28
    B. $165
    C. $247
_____ 9. Thoreau suggests he liked to entertain guests in
    A. his house
    B. his "withdrawing room... behind my house"
    C. on the shore of the pond
_____ 10. At Walden Thoreau is visited by
    A. women and young children from town
    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

    A. it has attached him to the earth, increasing his kinship with nature
    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
_____ 2. On one of his trips to the village, Thoreau
    A. is jailed for aiding a runaway slave
    B. is jailed for refusing to pay a tax
    C. loses his way in the deep woods
_____ 3. In speaking of John Field at Baker Farm, Thoreau laments that
    A. they were unsuccessful in their fishing expedition
    B. despite their hard work life has brought the Fields little
    C. men's shadows morning and evening reach farther than their daily steps
_____ 4. Thoreau believes "the animal in us"
    A. can be rooted out by abstinence from meat and strong drink
    B. must be controlled in the unending struggle between good and evil
    C. gives us the strength to become all that nature has intended
_____ 5. The chapter "Brute Neighbors" discourses on
    A. the ferocious battle between the black and the red ants
    B. the dehumanizing spectacle of the drunkards in the village
    C. drudgery and savagery of life among the common village folk
_____ 6. In general, winter
    A. brings Thoreau closer to his purpose in Walden because it forces him to "internalize" his life
    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
_____ 7. The idea of people from Charleston or New Orleans drinking at his well refers to the
    A. water obtained from the ice chopped from the pond
    B. ideas that Thoreau lives by finding their way to other cities
    C. fact that he has entertained visitors from many places
_____ 8. The parable of the Indian artist who made a perfect staff illustrates
    A. why Thoreau left Walden
    B. that some men march to a different drummer
    C. that we need not tolerate dullness when there is constant novelty in the world
_____ 9. To attain self-emancipation Thoreau preached
    A. self-imposed poverty
    B. simplification
    C. both A and B
_____ 10. Thoreau finds the Canadian woodchopper to
    A. have a slumbering mind
    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.


  1. C
  2. A
  3. C
  4. A
  5. B
  6. A
  7. B
  8. A
  9. B
  10. C

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."


  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. B
  5. A
  6. C
  7. A
  8. B
  9. C
  10. A

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.

[Walden Contents]


  1. For what is the railroad a symbol in Walden?
  2. How does Thoreau use the image of the sun?
  3. What part does the philosopher, as seen by Thoreau, play in society?
  4. What does Thoreau mean by the word awake?
  5. In what ways does Thoreau write about what we now call ecology?
  6. In what ways does Thoreau use references to myth in Walden?
  7. Does Thoreau emerge as a naturalist or as a poet in the book?
  8. Is Walden Pond improved by Thoreau's stay there?
  9. Discuss the influence that Thoreau had on the landscape.
  10. Is life at Walden Pond lonely for Thoreau? Explain.
  11. What influence did the Transcendental movement have on Thoreau?
  12. What are the implications to society of Thoreau's experiment?
  13. Discuss Thoreau's explanation of "doubleness."
  14. Is Thoreau a religious man? Explain.
  15. What effect does keeping a journal have on Thoreau's writing style?
  16. In what ways is Walden like great books as Thoreau described them?
  17. Discuss the imagery of the day in the book.
  18. Discuss the imagery of vision in the book.
  19. In what ways does Walden Pond differ in winter from other times of the year?
  20. What, to Thoreau, is the cost of a thing?
  21. Discuss Thoreau's attitude toward wasting time.
  22. Where in Walden do we find the beginnings of thoughts expressed more fully in Civil Disobedience?
  23. Give examples of times when civilization triumphs over wildness in Walden.
  24. Give examples of times when human companionship is preferable to solitude.
  25. Discuss the frequent image of rising or climbing in Walden.
  26. How does Thoreau use symbols of decay in the book?
  27. Discuss how Thoreau saw himself in relation to the rest of the world.
  28. It has been said that Thoreau was at times so intent on discovering the bird behind the bird that he neglected to see the bird itself. Discuss.
  29. What was Thoreau's opinion of explorers and exploration?
  30. How is the chimney used as a symbol in Walden?
  31. In what very important way did Thoreau differ from Emerson as a philosopher?
  32. In what way are the ants like men?
  33. Discuss Thoreau's attitude toward hunting and fishing.
  34. Discuss Thoreau's diet and his attitudes toward food.
  35. What is the function of the news in our society?

[Walden Contents]


A society based on farming in which division of land and land reforms reflects the interests and economic status of the farmer.

In Greek mythology, a son of Poseidon and Ge (the Earth); a wrestler who derived his strength from touching the earth (his mother) and who was killed when Hercules lifted him off the ground.

A belief that a person's destiny is influenced by the arrangement of planets and stars.

The science of celestial bodies, and the laws that govern their motions.

The highest of the four Hindu castes or social classes.

Marcus Porcius Cato, 234-149 B.C., a Roman statesman who is known for his writings about agriculture.

A Chinese philosopher born in the middle of the 6th century B.C. He was a teacher of morality who believed in the power of example. He was one of Thoreau's favorite authors.

To prepare for growing of crops; to till; to improve; to refine.

Relating to the deity or gods; godlike.

A term referring to modern manufacturing in which each person does only a part of the process (for the sake of efficiency) and depends on the cooperation of others.

The frugal use of resources or the management of expenses; in Thoreau's vocabulary, the management and organization of one's life.


A hero of classical mythology known for his great strength.

An inhabitant of India; one who practices the Indian religion of Hinduism.

Greek poet, author of the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.

The raising or management of plants and animals; farming.

The epic poem by Homer about the fall of Troy.

The name given to the change from an agricultural to an industrial society that took place in the late 1800s and the early part of the 1900s.

Literally, work done with the hands, but also any work that requires physical activity.

The external world in its original state, and the controlling force in the universe.

In classical mythology, the mountain on which the gods lived.

Humanitarianism; good will toward mankind.

One who develops theories about the nature of truth.

A search for wisdom and truth through reasoning rather than through observation of facts; belief.

The Fitchburg-Boston line, built by Irish immigrants, which connected Concord with Boston and passed close to the shore of Walden Pond.

In Walden this most often means the company of others, but it also means a social group or community.

A philosophy that stresses the spiritual and the intellectual rather than the material and the sensual.

Ancient Hindu scriptures.

THE NARRATIVE, continued

ECC [Walden Contents] []

© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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