Self Reliance in Walden

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Self Reliance

The summer of 1845 found Henry David Thoreau living in a rude shack on the banks of Walden Pond. The actual property was owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher. Emerson had earlier published the treatise entitled "Nature," and the young Thoreau was profoundly affected by its call for individuality and self-reliance. Thoreau planted a small garden, took pen and paper, and began to record the of life at Walden. Thoreau's experiment in deliberate living began in March of 1845. By planting a two-and-a-half acre parcel borrowed from a neighbor who thought it useless, he harvested and sold enough peas, potatoes, corn, beans and turnips to build and to buy food. He purchased an old shanty from an Irish railroad worker and tore it down. He also cut timber from the woods surrounding Walden Pond. From the material, he was able to construct his cabin. He used the boards for siding and even salvaged the nails from the original shack. By mid-summer, the house was ready to inhabit. Thoreau built a fireplace and chimney for heat and cooking. He plastered the inside walls and made sure he could comfortably survive the freezing New England winters by doing all the work himself and using only native material, the house cost only about twenty-eight dollars to build, less than Thoreau had to pay for a year's staying at Harvard. But the main purpose for his experience was to allow time for writing, thinking, observing nature, and learning the "art of living." "I went to the woods because I wished to live 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 not lived ... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" Thoreau also went to Walden with the firm belief that man was too encumbered with material things - too much possessed by his belongings. He believed that a man is rich only "in proportion...
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