Summary Thoreau explains how he chose to live in the woods in a little house on the shore of Walden Pond. He explains that he will write in the first person. He asserts that all text is written in the first person but that authors sometimes just choose to not use the term "I." "I require of every writer...a simple and sincere account of his own life...for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been a distant land to me," Thoreau writes. He then fulfills his own requirement, explaining his daily life and why he chose this way of living.
Farmers are chained to their farms as much as a person is chained in a jail. Possessions tie a person down. Work ties a person down. Attempting to own things leads to work that restricts an individual's freedom. To truly live is determining what one needs and enjoys and working to acquire only those things.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," Thoreau writes. He asserts that there is no point to living if it is not deliberate.
There are four basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. Each of these has the object of conserving an individual's energy. Without them, human beings cannot contemplate the true problems of life. The quantity and quality of these necessities do not have to be high: "Most of the luxuries and many of the so called comforts of life are not only dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind." Material wealth does not mean intellectual and spiritual wealth, and the latter are much more important. It is best to want less.
Clothing is of no great importance. It is the man inside the clothing that matters. Shelter is important to keep one warm and provide a home, but...