Author: Henry David Thoreau
Translator: Seung-young Kang
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About This Book
Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau is one of the
best-known non-fiction books written by an American.
Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's life for two years and two months in second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond, not far from his friends and family in Concord, Massachusetts. Walden was written so that the stay appears to be a year, with expressed seasonal divisions. Thoreau called it an experiment in simple living.
Walden is neither a novel nor a true autobiography, but a social critique of the Western World, with each chapter heralding some aspect of humanity that either needed to be renounced or praised. Along with his critique of the civilized world, Thoreau examines other issues afflicting man in society, ranging from reading and economy to solitude and "higher laws." He also takes time to talk about the experience at Walden Pond itself, commenting on the animals and the way people treated him for living there, using those experiences to bring out his philosophical positions. This extended commentary on nature has often been interpreted as a strong statement to the natural religion that transcendentalists like Thoreau and Emerson were preaching.
More than a century later, Walden remains a touchstone for Americans seeking to "get in touch with Nature," and is a major cultural icon. It has been parodied in the Doonesbury comic strip, and emulated in Walden Two by B.F. Skinner.
The pond itself is a tourist attraction, as well as a center of controversy over nearby development - thus demonstrating the very tension between natural and man-made pleasures that Thoreau explored in his book.
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