Karen's Reviews > Walden

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Oct 04, 2010

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bookshelves: classics, high-school-reading, nonfiction, read-in-high-school

Oh dear god, this man is both boring and infuriating (is that even possible?). Perhaps he should have heeded his own advice, to "suck out all the marrow of" his book and "reduce it to its lowest terms." But no, he instead drags on and on about the most inane details, throwing in obscure literary allusions left and right. Now, let me ask, if the book is addressed to "poor students," what are the chances that they will understand any of these references? Which leads to the question, then why does Thoreau use them? To show that he is intelligent, of course, which leads me to my next point - that he is infuriating.

He is infuriating in his preachiness and pretentiousness. He makes sweeping judgments about the millennia of man's existence, and I can't help but wonder why we should listen to him. If he has "never met a man who was quite awake" (even though I'm sure his good friend Emerson was just as intellectually able as our little genius here), then how are we to believe that he just so happens to be the one exception?

This is why I also don't like the film Into the Wild, which has a similar theme. Books/films like these are horribly preachy and pretentious. They try to make you feel bad about your way of life, even though they have no authority to do so, and they then somehow refute their point. For instance, the nature boy in Into the Wild dies from eating poisonous berries, while Thoreau conducted his experiment for only 2 years (not enough to preach that it is a way of life) and then got bucketloads of money from book sales.

And I find it funny that the very people who view this book as their bible are kind of missing the point of the book. Thoreau says somewhere in there that he wouldn't want anyone to live like himself, but then again ... why did he write this book ... who knows. And another thing - following another's words so religiously has got to be indicative of the herd instinct, which Thoreau advocates against. And yet another thing - he says that a scrap of newspaper serves the same purpose as [insert great literary author here]. Since in this day and age, we could very well put his name there, why don't we follow his own advice and throw Walden away?

P.S. I typed this whole thing on my phone. Thoreau is turning over in his grave...
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Reading Progress

October 4, 2010 – Shelved
October 4, 2010 – Shelved as: classics
October 4, 2010 – Shelved as: high-school-reading
October 4, 2010 – Shelved as: nonfiction
December 16, 2010 – Started Reading
December 16, 2010 – Shelved as: read-in-high-school
Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Lucy (new)

Lucy lol. I'm sure using that acronym also made Thoreau cringe (it usually makes me cringe but it seemed appropriate here...it being a phone review and all):)


Karen Haha, yes, sometimes I wish Thoreau were living in this era. I'd love to see what kind of crazy things he'd say about technology.


message 3: by Laurel (last edited Dec 28, 2010 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laurel Haha -- your review made me laugh. I actually enjoyed his musings when I read this book awhile ago, but I can definitely see how this book could also come off as annoying and preachy. You make some very good, valid (and funny) points. :)


Karen Thanks Laurel! I, too, see both sides of the book. My teacher who assigned this book absolutely worships it; and one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society, references it a few times. But I just had to write some of my comments down, even though I'm not finished the book yet. Anyway, I had fun writing this review, so I'm glad you liked it too! :)


message 5: by Tress (new) - added it

Tress Huntley That was an excellent review! This is one of those books that has always made me feel literary-inferior because I didn't seem to be able to appreciate it the way I was supposed to. I feel the same way about T.S. Eliot, incidentally.

Although Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies as well, I have a real problem with smug intellectualism. Well done!


Karen Thanks so much Tress! You basically summed it up right there! :)


Karen Thanks so much Tress! You basically summed it up right there! :)


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