Henry David Thoreau and Indiviualism

Essay by earldriscollUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2005

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Henry David Thoreau and Individualism

Although Romanticism varied from one group or individual to another, certain characteristics were common to most aspects of the movement. Some of these common characteristics were individualism, rejection of rules of art forms, emotional expression, imagination rather than reason, and expression of the sublime or peaceful aspects of nature. Additional commonalities were some of the things Romanticists opposed such as empiricism, mechanization, mathematical thinking, dehumanization, and increased materialism. Individualism is a belief in the importance of the individual and the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence. Moreover this concept of individualism can be viewed in relation to the State or social group. Henry David Thoreau, in both Walden and "Civil Disobedience", espouses individualism.

Self-reliance and personal independence are hallmarks which are predominant in Walden. Thoreau went to the woods to get to the most basic facts of life and to appreciate and enjoy everything about these most basic facts.

Thoreau viewed the woods in particular, and nature in general, as a teacher of life and living. Thoreau believed that the simpler his life became the greater his opportunity to appreciate life. Thoreau did not want to allow society to determine that which he knew as life. He believed that living was to experience first hand and to formulate his own understanding of life (Thoreau, Walden 303,304). To live an existence based on the common experience of others would be as to neglect one's own experience.

Individualism and an appreciation for nature and solitude do not necessarily mean living as a hermit. Thoreau believed that in order to truly appreciate life, to understand and experience life as one's own life, it is necessary to quiet the mind of all the surrounding trappings of society. For instance, Thoreau proposes that all news is nothing more...