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The Simplicity of Life- Walden

Book Introduction

Written by Thoreau, Walden is the reflection of the two-year experiences living at the Walden pond by himself. Thoreau lived a life of simplicity and self-reliance, and he learned a great deal and about the individual and nature.

Book Recommendation

The book will take you away to the beautiful world of Thoreau’s. There, you can enjoy the beautiful language, independence and get mind-blown by some of the radical thoughts.

Rating: 4.6/5

The Simplicity of Life

In Burgess’s review on the relationship between the 21 Century and the simplicity of life as promoted by Thoreau in Walden, he describes a typical employee’s day, which starts with waking up “to his radio alarm clock blaring loud. Upon turning off the alarm clock, the man quickly gets dressed and checks multiple electronic devices, including his cell phone and computer. After checking any missed calls and email notifications, the man goes through his spam and sighs, realizing he hasn’t paid his house rent orelectricity fee. He quickly jumps in the car and stops by Starbucks to get some breakfast to go and arrives to work just on time. Similar to what Burgess envisions as a typical man’s morning, many people in different parts of the world in the 21 Century live a similar life- waking up to numerous information in electronic devices and hurrying to work. Technology advancements do surprise people, but they also startle people in a way that Thoreau feared as he expressed in Walden: namely, he worships a lifestyle opposite to ours in the current society. While technology has “made life easier, faster and more convenient”, it has also destroyed the simplicity nature of our lives and devastated the previous optimal human relationship with nature. Contrary to the two-year experiences at Walden, people now lack intimate relationships with nature and with their “selves”.

Admittedly, technology did make lives easier and faster. While getting in touch with someone might take more than one month one hundred years ago, it now happens in the blink of an eye for the phone to ring. Life became so much faster than before, and with these so-called improvements, there are also many downsides. Thoreau believes that “when we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence”. However, when we are hurried, we lose valuable things in life or simply are not able to perceive them.

Undoubtedly, as technology progresses, people possess more things than people did in previous centuries, and this phenomenon can be easily verified by the increasing numbers of regulations and laws of protecting such human possessions. But are we really happier when we possess more? Is a man definitely happier with more cars and a bigger house than a man with fewer cars and a smaller house? After all, most things in life, including clothes, cars, houses and other possessions serve simple functions and having a great number of them don’t make a difference in the daily nuances. Thoreau prefers to “sit on a pumpkin and have it all to himself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion, given that a velvet cushion is more expensive and harder to obtain. As he deeply believes, clothes are used to keep us warm and unashamed; cars are used to commute people; houses are places to sleep in. One can sit on both a pumpkin and a cushion, so what difference does it make? More physical possessions would not generate a sense of happiness, nor can they make life simpler. By contrast, more possessions mean more responsibilities and more time spent on unimportant things. As Thoreau claims, a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone. When someone can discard unnecessary possessions that make life more complicated, he is rich in his mind and soul.

When we are stuck in a fast-paced life, we have fewer opportunities to think independently. While we are eating from deliveries and fastfood restaurants, we lose the chance to be self-reliant and eat what we make. While we acquire information from smartphones and from browsing websites, we lose the opportunity to come up with original ideas and truly understand the information. While we are required to skim 300 pages of a book, we lose the chance to read what we are interested in and slowly learn from the books. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”- people are losing this simplicity! 

Going back to the typical city worker scenario, when we picture the busy person, we picture him in a city of cement, where buildings are tall and cars are everywhere on the street. It is unlikely that the person lives in the country, where the river flows and mountains stand. Technology has made life faster, but it has done so at the expense of precious nature. How many people sigh upon seeing their childhood homes becoming city buildings? And how many people realize that they are losing the chances to intimately interact with nature forever? Thoreau promotes that let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Even if the beauties of nature still exist, do we still have the time and leisure to go into nature? The pace of our lives is so fast that we tend to neglect the beauty of nature instead of appreciating it. When we come by a beautiful lake surrounded by animals, we either don’t see it because we are hurrying to somewhere else or simply take a picture and post on social media, captioned “beautiful nature”; when we do that, are we really appreciating nature?

Lastly, human relationships are also more complicated and less genuine compared with more primitive societies. People now fight against each other for limited resources, and distrust is common among people. Compared with the self-reliance circumstance in Walden, people in our society are forced to socialize and interact with more people, while few of these interactions can be defined as simple.

While celebrating the technology advancements, we should reconsider the society that is shaped by technology developments and slow down our lives for the better. Lucky enough for Thoreau, who realizes “at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours“. Walden has inspired us to reconsider the optimal lives we want and live those lives.

Book Information: Walden- Henry David Thoreau


Works Cited

Burgess, Adam. “Thoreau in the 21st Century: Can Walden Still Speak to Us Today?” ThoughtCo, Jul. 3, 2019,


Published by Sunny

I am a high school rising sophomore and I love to read and write.

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