Thoreau’s Writings Are Still Worthy of Consideration

By Paul Emerson DeStefano
Honors English 10, Conifer High School
   Today, the novel coronavirus disease (2019) has caused a widespread global pandemic decimating humanity. People across the world are forced indoors in fear of infection which has been a perfect agar plate to swab and colonate the detriments of society into the thoughts of many.
   Throughout the writings of Henry David Thoreau, especially in Walden, he touches on the issues we face in society like economics and social processes. While forced into solitude, people are able to break down societal issues which Thoreau entertained on his own. In the theories of Walden, Thoreau challenges societal normalities and becomes one with nature; therefore, those who read his writings adopt some of his commentary of slowing down, coming together, and acceptance which is still imperative in society today.    During the late 1800s when Walden was written, there were many social reforms taking place in America. Thanks to philosophers like Thoreau and his best friend Emerson, people in the US began to realize some of the faults in society. From the writings of Thoreau, it is important to become less self absorbed, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth” (Thoreau). The understanding of the importance of being honest with oneself and others is pertinent for a good relationship. This knowledge later caused corporations to allow unions to protect its workers and women to stand up for their rights. Thoreau often philosophized about the significance of education and knowledge, showing that it is unnecessary to repeat the same mistakes.
   During the early 1800s, the US introduced the Library of Congress. Within the examinations of society, Thoreau explains that “Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations” (Thoreau). Consequently, Thoreau reiterates the significance of storing knowledge, and growing from one’s mistakes which provides significant support for the Library of Congress. The philosophy of Thoreau caused many to take a different look on society and to appreciate the small things.
   Throughout the 20th century in America, reform continued, and the writing of Thoreau became a common message in movements like women’s rights and civil rights. Unbeknownst to many, Thoreau indirectly affected the ideology of many reform leaders. Susan B Anthony, a leader in the women’s movement, had a perspective that was completely in line with that of Thoreau. From Anthony, “Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval” (Susan B Anthony). Because of Thoreau, reform in America changed.
   Another example of Thoreau’s philosophy seen in reform, was shown in the work of Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK) of the civil rights movement. In a speech from MLK, “non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” In line with Thoreau’s ideology, MLK conveys his message of civil disobedience which was very prevalent in the writings of Thoreau.
   Today, a large portion of scientific focus lays on Global Warming. Within the writings of Thoreau, the conservation of nature is pertinent to maintain balance in society. From Walden, “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature” (Thoreau). Clearly, the significance of nature to Thoreau has trickled down to the environmental scientists and activists within society today.
   Thanks to COVID-19, people in America have been given the opportunity to live simply, maybe not driving the car as often or pushing out the people who cause anguish in their lives. All of this thought completely emulates Thoreau’s philosophy.
   From his writing, “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” Clearly, the importance of being one with surroundings and being psychologically fit is seen in the work of Thoreau.
   As the planet warms, people of color die in police related violence, and the unlucky are oppressed, Americans make the choice to take a stance or to ignore the situation. This comes to show that all generations can learn from the work of Henry David Thoreau as his very thoughts have changed the way we take on the issues society brings us today.

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