In Henry David Thoreau's Walden it is quite evident that Thoreau seeks to control the world in which he lives. The book is about Thoreau taking control of his life by moving away from society so that he can live by himself. Thoreau's going back to the primitive if you will. Thoreau feels that society has strayed too far from the pursuit of excellence and purity.
He states that man has become too ambitious and too greedy. Man desires to own and gain too many things. People are not living simply anymore. To Thoreau the cost of something is not really its actual cost in dollars and cents. To him the cost of something is the amount of life one person must exchange for it.
He claims a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can let alone. Rather than accumulating things (possessions) Thoreau wanted to enjoy the richness of time. His trek to Walden Pond us his attempt to break away from the lives of desperation that he saw most people lead. Thoreau borrows an axe and builds a cabin for himself on the shore of Walden Pond in the woods near Boston, Massachusetts. He plants a garden of beans, corn, potatoes, turnips, and other dry vegetables and lives off what he can grow and what he can capture.
He has isolated himself from other people. The closest neighbor lives a mile away from him. In terms of necessities, Thoreau explains that he existed for two years on the most basic of things. He took with him a small wardrobe of clothes. With his borrowed axe and thirty bucks he built himself a small cabin, 10 feet by 15 feet in size. His cabin had two large windows, one door, one closet, a fireplace and a roof.
His furniture consisted of a table, three chairs, a desk, a bed, a looking glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and irons, a kettle, a skillet, a frying pan, and a few other things for cooking and eating. Thoreau describes why he lived the way he did: I went to the woods because I wished to live ther 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 lived. As stated earlier, Thoreau in observing people has noticed to his dismay that that they are often slaves to their supposed needs. Everyone works in various jobs to earn themselves a living.
In this process he claims that they become slaves to materialism and acquisition. He also states that most people do not hold onto their jobs because they like their jobs and enjoy doing them. He thinks people are enslaved to the things that they have become used to having. Thoreau calls this bonded labor and he claims that bonded labor leads to depression.
Thoreau thinks that man would have more time for things with value if he paid less attention to gaining all the comforts of life. He offers that man should only focus on the very basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and fuel. The basic things that man needs to exist. If man did not have luxuries to distract him then man could concentrate by making his life better by bettering his mind with learning and thinking.
Thoreau considers unnecessary luxuries as positive hindrances for man's spiritual development. He takes this one step further by offering that a man with a secure path in life already laid out for him should leave the vicious circle of social comforts and widen the horizon of his life to include less comfortable stations in life. Thoreau had always tried to avoid being too comfortable and too concerned with what he could buy or own. Part of the reason he goes to Walden Pond is to learn more about himself and more about mankind. The only way Thoreau could distance himself from society and free himself from all the luxuries of the world was to move to a place where there wasn t a lot of people.
Walden was his sanctuary. He was able to clear his mind, live simply, and see life in a new light. His attempt to live on his own was obviously successful. He did not need any luxuries or help from anyone else. He was content being by himself. About his experiences at Walden, Thoreau says I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours...
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Thoreau was definitely successful.