Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Since Walden is the autobiographical, non-fiction recounting of Henry David Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond, every event in the text is essentially factual rather than imagined or created. The action is simply comprised of the events that happen to Thoreau during the two years that he spends in the woods. The narrator feels that society has strayed too far from the pursuit of excellence and purity. He claims that mankind has become too ambitious and greedy, enslaved by his own desire to own and possess. People have strayed away from simple lives offered by Nature's example. The narrator decides to move to the woods, where he builds a small cabin. He plants a garden and lives off of what he can produce or capture. He is isolated from other people for the most part, though he does have occasional visitors. He spends his time observing nature, wildlife, and the seasons and contemplating the nature of man and the universe. He also reflects on the differences and similarities between society and nature. At the end of two years, he returns to society. He writes down the factual story of his time in the woods, along with his interpretation of the events that occurred. He offers his work as encouragement and motivation in the hope that society will purify itself.
Each chapter (eighteen in all) is an essay composed of various incidents that share a similar theme. Various characters and events constitute mini-narratives in the text. These situations contribute to the whole experience contained in Walden-that of a man learning to live in nature as simply as possible.
As stated by Thoreau, the theme of Walden is self-realization and self-fulfillment. Self-actualization is attained through human unity with Nature. Every aspect of Walden is focused on this idea. Because the piece is a collection of essays, individual Themes are discussed in each of the chapter summaries below.
The mood, created by the first person voice of the narrator, is reflective, serious, and introspective. At times, Thoreau becomes sarcastic, wryly retelling the events of his life and the actions of others; his intent is to prove that simplicity is the key to self- fulfillment. Throughout the book, he is honest, conversational, and intensely committed to the truths he offers. What elevates Walden in modern literature is the depth with which the reader gets to know the narrator simply by being privileged to hear his deepest thoughts and reflections.
Throughout Walden, the author has an optimistic and positive attitude. His tone remains earnest while he reflects upon the general human predicament caused by the complications of everyday living. The language of the narrator fully captures the pleasurable moments he seems to have experienced while being in the woods. Both pastoral and wild, innocence and revelation are expressed with a heightened sense of imagination and excitement, followed by a self-reflective mood of analysis.