Henry David Thoreau was an American poet, philosopher, essayist, naturalist, abolitionist, tax resister, surveyor, and historian, active during the middle of the 19th century. Known for being one of the primary leaders of the Transcendentalist movement, Thoreau is perhaps most recognized in the literary community for his book Walden, which describes a reflection on living simply in the natural world, as well as his essay “Civil Disobedience”, which argues for defiance against an unjust government. Thoreau lived a very unconventional life for this time, never marrying nor having any children, and instead he chose to focus on making an example of himself, completely embodying the philosophical ideals he addressed in his prose. One of his more famous quotes, “Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity!” more or less gets the point across, which is that man ought to take a few steps back to not lose sight of what is important; still, for Thoreau, what seems to be important is very different than what the average 19th century man might be willing to concede to. He did not drink anything but water, refused tobacco, avoided having intimate relationships with any man or woman, and his diet was at best bland vegetarianism. Indulgences were not exactly his forte, though he did this with the sole purpose of discovering life’s true essential needs. Conversely, one has to wonder, in taking on such an incredible and burdensome task, did Thoreau find the solution to this problem of man, or did sacrificing those particular aspects of life he deemed superfluous in turn cause him to lose a part of his humanity?
Let’s find out in episode 23, shall we?