Madison with nature and finding one’s spirituality. Thoreau

Madison Messervy


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The Life of Henry
David Thoreau

          Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817,
in the small town of Concord Massachusetts, where he spent most of his life. Thoreau
was a middle child of four siblings. He had two older siblings, John and Helen,
and a younger sister, Sophia. His parents worked hard to provide him with a
good education, recognizing his academic talent. Thoreau’s father operated a
pencil factory, whereas his mother rented their home out to boarders. He
received a high-quality education, attending private schools as a child and
furthering his education at Harvard University. He graduated at the top of his
class in 1837. Thoreau struggled with what career path to venture down after
graduating. He was briefly a school teacher but quickly realized that he wasn’t
suited for teaching. He then, went to work at his father’s pencil factory. He
eventually started a school with his brother John, but it failed soon after due
to John becoming sick.                 Thoreau
become very good friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson exposed
Thoreau to popular ideas of the time, such as transcendentalism and naturalism.
Thoreau fell in love with these ways of thinking and the overall lifestyle that
accompanied them. Transcendentalism and naturalism focused on being one with
nature and finding one’s spirituality. Thoreau lived with Emerson for two
years. In that time he developed a love for writing and literature. With the
help of Emerson, he published poems and essays in a transcendental journal.  

Thoreau built a
house on Emerson’s land by a place known as Walden Pond. He believed that the
common man was miserable working six days a week. He aimed to work as little as
possible and focused most of his time on writing his first book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in
1849. He later went on to write about
his experiment of living a simple life enjoying nature in his second book Walden. During his two years living at
Walden Pond, he had a brief encounter with the law due to his refusal to pay a
poll tax. Because of this, he was forced to spend a night in jail. This
experience led him to voice his very strong political views in an essay called Civil Disobedience. This essay has gone
on to be very influential and inspiring to many during major revolutions such
as the civil rights movement and India’s battle for independence from Great

the success of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau
began to strongly voice his political beliefs. He became a dedicated
abolitionist, speaking out against slavery. He also strongly supported Captain
John Brown, a man convicted and put to death for conducting an uprising against
slavery. He was outraged by the death on Captain Brown and wrote the work “Slavery in Massachusetts”
highlighting the bravery of Captain Brown and the incredibly awful slave law. He
was outraged by the concept of slavery and continued to speak out against it.
He became a conductor of the underground railroad and aided slaves in escaping
to Canada.

           Thoreau contacted tuberculosis
earlier in life and ultimately, this disease came back to haunt him. He went
home to Minnesota to receive treatment for his condition. The treatment failed
and he died of the tuberculosis in 1862. Even though Thoreau is long gone, his
legacy remains standing. His work Walden has
inspired many. It addresses many societal faults and encourages citizens to reevaluate
their current living situations. His writing style influenced many well-known
writers today as well as inspired many. Thoreau was a writer unmatched by any
other. He truly devoted his life to writing as immersing himself in his work.
He lived and died for his beliefs and writings. When Thoreau died, Ralph Waldo
Emerson said “The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a
son it has lost. . . . His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a
short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is
knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a


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