Walden by Henry David Thoreau Poem Analysis Essay
Henry David Thoreau was an American writer and leading transcendentalist, famous for his book Walden. Walden acted as a pronouncement of independence and simple living, a social experiment, a journey to self-discovery and a manual for self-sustainability. At the time of writing Walden, Thoreau had spent more than two years in a cabin he had built near Walden Pond, with the intention of answering the question: could he live in a world that was stripped of superficial and redundant luxuries?
The poem was incredibly moving to me, because it spoke about the desire to live with conviction. I think as a society, we get caught up in the mundanity of life and we begin to lose our sense of purpose and passion. When Thoreau writes, “... and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” it is haunting because personally, it is my biggest fear, that one day I will come to the realisation that I have not lived. I first came across this poem whilst watching Dead Poets Society, and I immediately identified with it because it implored me to “suck out all the marrow of life.” Studying the poem added a sense of gravity to these initial feelings, because it had been two years since first hearing the poem and I did not feel like I had deeply experienced life or any of its qualities.
Throughout the poem, Thoreau uses imagery to emphasise his objective. Thoreau was a naturalist and a philosopher, which explains the opening line, “I went to the woods…” I believe that this does a fantastic job of explaining exactly what Thoreau is trying to convey. The woods are associated with tranquility, beauty and spirituality, and Thoreau takes it a step further by exploring themes of spiritual identity, which is demonstrated by his contrast between life and death. The poem itself—although not rhythmic—is lyrical and while it does not use rhyme or sound-devices, we the reader understand the intensity of the poem by the words he chooses to use, as displayed in the line, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like…” This line in particular gives the entire poem a sense of urgency.
It is because of this urgency that, I believe, Thoreau gets his message across to the reader; that we cannot simply wait for life to happen to us, but rather make an active choice to take our lives into our own hands.