Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Group 2 Section 8 Midterm Report

Group members doing their report on Henry David Thoreau can post it here.


  1. Henry David Thoreau's Beginning
    Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. His father worked at a Pencil factory, while his mother rented out parts of their home for people to stay. As an intelligent student, Thoreau attended Harvard College where he studied German, Greek, and Latin. After Graduating in 1837, Henry was unsure as to what would follow in his life. The year following, Thoreau and his brother John attempted to set up a school, but when his brother became ill years later, their attempt failed. In consequence, Thoreau began to work for his father at the pencil factory. Because of the friendship he previously made with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau was exposed to the idea of Transendentalism in which encourages scientific inquiry and observation. Henry then went to live on Emerson's property to take care of it. Through this, Emerson became a mentor to the aspiring Transendentalist. For the 2 years Henry lived on his property, he had a great deal of time to spend writing his well known books like "Walden" or "Life in the Woods", which he wrote about the nature he was surrounded by on his land. During his time, he also got into the law, which influenced him to write his popular piece known as "Civil Disobedience". This wraps up the beginning of his journey as a philosopher.

  2. What influenced Henry David Thoreau
    Henry David Thoreau was influenced mainly by 2 important people in his life. He got much of his influence, specifically as a writer, from a professor he had several English classes from during his time at Harvard. The professor was a professor of rhetoric and his name was Edward Tyrrel Canning. Many of his topics influenced a number of writers, one of whom was Thoreau which can be seen throughout his essays he wrote in class as well as in his book Walden which he wrote 17 years later. The other, and arguably the biggest, human influence on Thoreau and his beliefs was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau read Emerson's work Nature, which is considered to be the birth of the transcendentalism movement in America, while he was in college and later in his life ended up staying with the Emerson family, working as a sort of grounds keeper and a handyman; during this time Thoreau focused a lot on his writing and did a lot of strolling around Concord. The biggest overall influence on Thoreau's thoughts, writings, and beliefs was nature itself. Nature and how it was viewed by and particular person was the heart of transcendentalism. As he went on he focused his naturalistic study to a more scientific methodology. He read Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and from there adopted the ideal of natural selection and used them in his essay “Succession of Forest Trees”. Each of these influences fueled Henry’s beliefs about nature and furthered his love of the transcendental ideals and philosophy.

  3. Criticisms on Henry David Thoreau's Works

    Henry David Thoreau received widespread acclaim for his works, most particularly Walden, but as with every written work there are critics looking to discredit them. In Walden he discusses his experiences while living alone in the woods in complete solitude, becoming one with nature. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson judged this mode of living apart from society to be a mark of “unmanliness”, and called in “womanish solitude”. He considered Thoreau to be a skulker, not man enough to be a productive member of society. Well-known Nathaniel Hawthorne was also critical of Thoreau’s works, accusing him of avoiding making an actual living in society, and choosing to live an Indian-like life among civilized men. Similarly, poet John Greenleaf Whittier detested the message of Walden, deeming it to be “wicked” and “heathenish”. Thoreau elegantly responded to these cruel responses by saying that he was just doing his duty in retelling his life experiences, and basically that if someone did not like it, then to not attempt to follow in his footsteps, simple as that. He went on to explain that his feelings and ideas were very different from some of the men who deemed it acceptable to criticize him, and that everyone has the right to believe in what they wished. Personally I see his way of living in Walden to be very admirable, and personally I envy his ability to escape into nature, away from the trials of everyday life in the society of men.

  4. Henry David Thoreau’s works
    Though Thoreau had many published works in his life (over 20 volumes), varied in topic from economy to solitude and reading to winter animals, two of his most recognizable are his text “Walden”, and his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”. Walden is a book Thoreau wrote while living in a cabin that he built on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property next to Walden Pond. The book told of Thoreau’s own philosophies on life and how he chose to live his life, rather than being a manifesto on how others should live theirs. “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” or commonly “Civil Disobedience” was an essay written following Thoreau’s political views on government. It was his belief that government is the primary agent of corruption and “That government is best which governs least”, and though some may say he was an anarchist, in reality his desire was an improved government. To this day through a project established by the “Thoreau Society”, Henry David Thoreau’s works live on. They are continuing to bring new literature of Thoreau’s to light and have gotten some long lost or forgotten works published as recently as the late 1990’s. It’s said that Thoreau’s philosophies as well as his book “Walden” carry a great importance in American literature and I challenge you to brows the vast collections of his works and to consider his point of view against your own to discover how you may be similar or differ in your opinions.

    1. Henry David Thoreau's later philosophical journey:
      Henry became known as an, "original thinker" and an early anarchist. He was mostly influenced by Emerson's view of transcendentalism. This philosophy is base on your knowledge about the world or yourself going far from what you can see, hear, feel and touch. Transcendentalists viewed this philosophy not as a religious belief but as a way of understanding life relationships. Even though David was inspired by this, he became and remained a hard core abolitionist. An abolitionist is someone who want to get rid of a practice. For Henry, this meant getting rid of capital punishment or in other words slavery.His thoughts against this practice were so strong that he helped with the underground railroad. The underground railroad was a way that helped slaves escape to free land, like Canada. Many abolitionist contributed to their escape as well as people who felt bad about the situation slaves were stuck in.Years later, Thoreau was diagnosed with tuberculosis, but this illness defeated him and he passed away in 1862, at age 44. Henry like many other great philosophers contributed to many great changes, and new ways of viewing different matters. Without them we would not be able to open up our mind to new views or new questions to ask about the simplicities of life.