Henry David Thoreau



Born David Henry Thoreau, Thoreau chose to legally change his name at the age of twenty, to make it the name that would later become the highly recognized and respected name of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau chose a different path for his life than many other individuals during his time, he rejected the normal ideas of a democratic government and based his life on the ideas of transcendentalism. Thoreau is best known for living two years of his life at Walden Pond, but there are more aspects of his life that have reached the people of America.
When Thoreau was a young child, he deeply immersed himself in nature. It was evident to his elders that he took a great interest in literature and writing. Thoreau began his writing at a young age, with his first essay at the age of ten, entitled “The Seasons.” Showing great intelligence, Thoreau was accepted to study at Harvard University at the age of sixteen, and with help from his family he was able to raise the money he needed to attend. While there, Thoreau had a good chance of being at the top of the class, but it was said “he went his own way too much to reach the top.” (Foerster, 26). Thoreau graduated from college on August 16, 1837, and then began a teaching career in Concord, Massachusetts. Not long after he began teaching, Thoreau retired. He had long been criticized for the way he punished his students. Instead of choosing to flog them, or to beat them when they did something wrong, Thoreau instead chose to deliver moral lectures to the children. The parents and elders of the community did not think this was enough to properly punish the children to let them know that what they were doing was wrong. It was for this reason that Thoreau resigned, he did not believe in the idea of physical punishment taking any part in education. It was at this time that Thoreau began to write and was first introduced to the idea of transcendentalism. Thoreau’s sister, Helen, introduced him to Lucy Jackson Brown, who happened to be Ralph Waldo Emerson\'s sister-in-law. (Foerster, 35). When Emerson read Thoreau’s Journal he realized they had many of the same ideas in common, and Emerson requested to meet with Thoreau. The meeting resulted in a close friendship between the two, and Emerson later became Thoreau’s mentor.
During his time with Emerson, Thoreau became familiar with members of what was known as the “Transcendental Club.” Transcendentalism is a newly founded belief and practice that involves man\'s interaction with nature, and the idea that man belongs to one universal and benign omnipresence know as the oversoul. (Edwards). Transcendentalism is described as a natural religion of democracy because it claims that divinity is in every human and therefore the universe. This suggestion that the individual is potentially divine can also support the religion of aristocracy. (DeVoile). The major influences are romanticism, idealism, self-examination, democratic individualism, nature, and mankind among others.
Thoreau took this belief to straight to heart when his brother, John, whom Henry was very close to, died on March 11, 1842 of complications of lockjaw. After building a cabin on a plot of land that Emerson had recently bought on Walden Pond, and preparing it for the time ahead, Thoreau began his two year recluse from normal American society on July 4, 1845. For two years Thoreau observed, wrote about, and lived among nature at its fullest. When asked why he went to live at Walden Pond, Thoreau replied: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... (Thoreau, 75- 76). ) Thoreau immersed himself into nature, allowed his mind to create a alertness of divinity, and he “transcended” to spiritual fulfillment. As a true transcendentalist, Thoreau’s retreat to Walden Pond signified the start of his