We have an ongoing discussion on this chapter in Iran based on my Persian translation. It is hard for us to imagine that Thoreau is merely referring to early adulthood by the phrase “at a certain season of our life” in the beginning of this chapter. It also seems hard to imagine he is looking for a permanent residence. Thoreau may not be looking for a physical residence in the material world at all. The reason I think so is that later in the chapter, he says, “We are wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote and more celestial corner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair, far from noise and disturbance?” A permanent house was never on T’s mind. He says, “Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. What is a house but a sedes, a seat?” Even in the beginning of Walden he considers himself “a sojourner of civilized life.” Rumi says, “The whole seven universes are too small for me.” It is most pleasant mysteries of Walden for us in Iran. What certain season and what spot is really Thoreau speaking about here?
April 23, 2018 at 11:38 pm
Posted in: General Discussion
[No humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature, which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. ]
Considering Thoreau’s statements in the first paragraph of this section, how can he revere attitudes and actions which he also labels as inhumane?
See in context
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
[He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes. ]
This passage thoroughly debases any belief of misanthropy on Thoreau’s part. Any time Thoreau is given the chance to relay information about friends, it’s clear in his tone and reflections how much Thoreau cares about people. He is cognizant enough of his friends to denote their habits, to quote them offhand, and relishes in conveying simple yet animated portrayals of the people in his life.
April 23, 2018 at 8:32 pm
[my shortcomings and inconsistencies do not affect the truth of my statement.]
I find this line so important in our study of Thoreau. No person is without fault, and we often take any flaw or inconsistency in his argument first, as a flaw in his character, and second, to discount his accurate statements. Beyond Thoreau, even, we do this too often with people, too.
April 23, 2018 at 8:24 pm
[To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?]
Thoreau comments on those who live life resembling sleepwalkers, lacking true purpose and meaning in their existence. Is Thoreau himself awake? This criticism of his, unlike some of his other points of contention, seems to be solely directed toward other people.
April 23, 2018 at 2:11 pm
This paragraph certainly comes off as elitist. Assuming that the books he’s chosen to read are the most important does not portray him in the kindest light. However, I wouldn’t, unlike Schulz, use this paragraph necessarily as evidence to condemn him as a misanthrope. Looking at the importance he places in education as is demonstrated in paragraphs 2 and 36 of Resistance to Civil Government (the first time he uses the fact that the people have educated others as a sign that the people are better than the government, and the second time, he says that he is taking it upon himself to educate others), it is unlikely that he looks down on these people for being people and more likely that he looks down on the education that produced them.
This seems to counter Schulz’ claim that Thoreau was misanthropic. Apparently, he loved to sit with others in the social bar-room. This sounds like the opposite of misanthropy, but it is obviously biased as it comes from Thoreau himself.
April 22, 2018 at 7:28 pm
[Sometimes, when I compare myself with other men, it seems as if I were more favored by the gods than they, beyond any deserts that I am conscious of; as if I had a warrant and surety at their hands which my fellows have not, and were especially guided and guarded. ]
Thoreau could not possibly make a more conceited statement than this.
April 22, 2018 at 3:37 pm
There is a parallelism here between Thoreau himself and the house in which he will live. The house is unfinished since Thoreau has just begun to construct his new life. There may also be a suggestion that he hasn’t decided if the house should ever be finished lest it diminish his hearing of the morning wind blowing over his home carrying the poem of creation. Will the completed plastered cabin be a place where the poem of creation can be sung?
March 26, 2018 at 4:51 am
Posted in: Emerson-Thoreau SUNY Geneseo
Thoreau was eating his own house. He was tasting life in all its details. This is part of the deliberate life he followed at Walden Pond.
February 23, 2018 at 9:19 am
This is a very good question. As Thoreau’s next paragraph § 82 makes clear, the numbers given here are to be seen as “comparative” at best. In a generous mood, one might say that Thoreau’s narrator strives to enumerate what he can – while evaluating the costs of dinners and snacks granted by friends and family would be harder (and indeed impolite) to do. Most of us could probably relate to his experience as well – Thoreau was not, after all, striving for an isolated hermitage, cut off from all social relations. And he was evidently not more of a curmudgeon than that he received a fair amount of free meals, freely offered too.
One might also ponder the incomplete numbers as symbolic of the impossibility of leaving an absolute autobiographical “account” at any time and place. Thoreau plays on this word in this chapter and others, from the looser sense of “narrative” over bookkeeping to the very ultimate statement: musing that his books have not at length been fully accounted for (i.e. audited), he hints (at least to this opinion) of the final Day of Accounts, and hence the verdict of a divine auditor for whom all numbers and balances are clear and can be weighed accurately.
Something like this seems to be going on too in the earlier, dense passage on our donning our garments, and particularly on “liber” as synonymous of “shirt”. Liber also connotes bark and the leaves of a book – such as Thoreau is presenting us in “Walden”. He says it is possible to shed the outer bark without harm to the living tree, but eventually one reaches a limit beyond which further stripping becomes fatal. Perhaps then, Thoreau’s narrator is signaling the limits of privacy and ultimately of life possible to convey in writing, at least to human eyes: once he has given his account and/or shed bark/skin to us, it is at length up to us what to make of it. How do we compare to his project?
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