Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) Life history & famous works

henry david thoreau
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Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

henry david thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was a nonconformist and idealist known for his unorthodox manners and irreverent views. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and became a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau was a devoted abolitionist and spent two years from 1845 to 1847 living a simple life in solitude at Walden Pond, near Concord.

Thoreau’s most famous work is “Walden; or, Life in the Woods,” published in 1854. Divided into 18 chapters, the book records his experiences and reflections during his time at Walden Pond. It emphasizes the importance of contemplation, solitude, and a close connection with nature. Themes of self-reliance, simplicity of life, nonconformity, and self-sufficiency are prevalent throughout the book.

In his essay “Paradise (to be) Regained” written in 1843, Thoreau explores themes of democracy, self-improvement, and the distrust of humanity’s attempts to improve upon nature.

Civil Disobedience,” published in 1849, is one of Thoreau’s most well-known works. It was inspired by his own experience of being imprisoned for refusing to pay a poll tax that supported a government endorsing slavery. Thoreau argues for individual resistance to unjust laws and advocates for the idea that “That government is best which governs least.” The essay had a profound impact on social thinkers such as Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi.

Thoreau also gave a speech titled “A Plea for Captain John Brown” in 1859, which was a passionate defense of the abolitionist John Brown, who was executed after raiding the Harper’s Ferry Armory.

Thoreau’s writings emphasize the importance of individuality, self-reliance, and resistance to unjust authority. His ideas have inspired generations of thinkers and activists, making him a significant figure in American literature and the history of social and political thought.

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