Biography of Henry David Thoreau

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Henry David Thoreau: An American Non-Conformist

Could you survive living in the woods by yourself for twenty two months? Would you be willing to go to jail to protest something you truly believed in? Henry David Thoreau did both of these things in his short life. Thoreau was a carpenter, ecologist, writer and philosopher. He was never famous in his lifetime, and actually many of his peers thought some of his ideas and actions were crazy, but we now look back on Thoreau as one of the first great American non-conformist, an inspiration to us all to stand up for what we believe in.

Thoreau was born in Concord, MA on July 12, 1817. As it outlined in Encyclopedia of World Biography, his parents were poor, but he attended Concord Academy because of his intelligence and good grades. He later entered Harvard in 1833 on a scholarship and quickly earned a reputation as an independent thinker. He graduated in 1837 with a degree in languages and began a teaching career that would not last long. (“Henry David Thoreau” 1). Thoreau’s true passion was writing, whether it be poetry, journals, editorials or essays. He quit teaching and worked odd jobs as a carpenter to survive. He also later became a surveyor of land. This job he particularly liked because it gave him time to write and allowed him to be out in nature, which was his greatest inspiration. He loved everything about nature and became somewhat of an expert on local plants and wildlife. Though he is best known for his philosophical writing, most of his writing is classified as nature writing. Three books published after his death, which are a great example of travel and nature writing, are The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, and A Yankee in Canada.

Besides nature, another inspiration for Thoreau’s was one of his neighbors in Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was Thoreau’s mentor and best friend. Emerson saw great potential in Thoreau and invited him to work as a tutor for his children and handy man at his house....
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