Walden by Henry David Thoreau - 1854



After reading ReadingNotes.UnabomberManifesto, watching Into the Wild and have, since a lot earlier an interest from Thoreau's work.

Pre-reading model

Draw a schema (using PmGraphViz or another solution) of the situation of the area in the studied domain before having read the book.


  • Economy
    • "Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them."
    • "All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant."
    • reference to Darwin and Liebig
    • "The luxuriously rich are not simply kept comfortably warm, but unnaturally hot; as I implied before, they are cooked, of course a la mode."
    • "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind."
      • see also the anonymous quote "Comfort comes first as a guest, Then becomes your host, And eventually your master. It is best to keep comfort as a guest."
    • "The philosopher is in advance of his age even in the outward form of his life."
    • "I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them."
    • "It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes."
    • "If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be."
    • "the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
    • "men have become the tools of their tools."
    • "Before we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped, and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living be laid for a foundation: now, a taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is no house and no housekeeper. "
    • regarding dwelling-houses and minimal housing, see also Projetautonomieenergetique#Housing listing adobe or cob (straw and sand) techniques
    • "Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve?"
    • "I cannot but think that if we had more true wisdom in these respects, not only less education would be needed, because, forsooth, more would already have been acquired, but the pecuniary expense of getting an education would in a great measure vanish."
    • "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at;"
    • "when the smoke [of the railroad] is blown away and the vapor condensed, it will be perceived that a few are riding, but the rest are run over"
    • "Nations are possessed with an insane the man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off. ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave."
    • "men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries;"
    • "it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve."
  • Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
    • "Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagination."
    • "Still we live meanly, like ants; [...] Our life is frittered away by detail."
    • "By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations."
  • Reading
    • "what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave."
    • "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!"
    • "Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men."
  • Sounds
    • an ode to all senses rather than an intellectual discussion
  • Solitude
    • "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
    • "Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows."
    • "The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him."
    • see also solitude.net (or sth like it) website
  • Visitors
    • "I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society."
    • "there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout."
  • The Bean-Field
    • description and some accounting
  • The Village
    • "Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as be awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."
    • "wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society."
    • "It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run <<amok>> against society; but I preferred that society should run <<amok>> against me, it being the desperate party. "
    • "I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough."
  • The Ponds
    • "Many a forenoon have I stolen away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher's desk."
  • Baker Farm
    • ?
  • Higher Laws
    • "He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise."
  • Brute Neighbors
    • ?
  • House-Warming
    • "Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I love to have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to remind me of my pleasing work."
  • Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
    • "The one who came from farthest to my lodge, through deepest snows and most dismal tempests, was a poet. A farmer, a hunter, a soldier, a reporter, even a philosopher, may be daunted; but nothing can deter a poet, for he is actuated by pure love."
  • Winter Animals
    • ?
  • The Pond in Winter
    • "If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact, or the description of one actual phenomenon, to infer all the particular results at that point. Now we know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, of course, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by our ignorance of essential elements in the calculation."
    • "Our notions of law and harmony are commonly confined to those instances which we detect; but the harmony which results from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting, but really concurring, laws, which we have not detected, is still more wonderful."
    • "The particular laws are as our points of view, as, to the traveller, a mountain outline varies with every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through it is not comprehended in its entireness."
  • Spring
    • "We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty."
    • "At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable."
    • "Thus was my first year's life in the woods completed; and the second year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847."
  • Conclusion
    • "The universe is wider than our views of it."
    • "Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men. But what is that to the purpose? A living dog is better than a dead lion."
    • "However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is."
    • "Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."
    • "if you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler."
    • "Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul."
    • "The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star. "

On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience

(original title : Resistance to Civil Government)

  • "The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it."
  • "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."
  • "Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority."
  • "If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."
  • "any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already."
  • "I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar."

See also

Overall remarks and questions

  • View of what the "Nineteenth Century offers", or at least what it can and what it should.
  • the first chapters and the conclusion cover him intimate convictions and his motivations which are really interesting, the last chapters though are much more descriptive and rather dull in comparison


So in the end, it was about X and was based on Y.


Point A, B and C are debatable because of e, f and j.


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Post-reading model

Draw a schema (using PmGraphViz or another solution) of the situation of the area in the studied domain after having read the book. Link it to the pre-reading model and align the two to help easy comparison.


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