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by Henry David Thoreau

Walden Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Thoreau doesn't really give us an explanation for why he leaves Walden Pond. Do you have any educated guesses? Also, do you think he made the right choice?
  2. Walden Pond was only mile and a half away from the center of town. Would Thoreau's story be different if he went somewhere really "wild," without a sign of civilization in sight? Why or why not?
  3. In the "Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors" chapter, Thoreau mentions some of the former inhabitants of Walden Pond, many of whom are African American. If they were to write their own stories about living by Walden Pond, what would they say?
  4. Walden inspired generations of writers and filmmakers. Think of some other stories or films that focus on individuals in their relation to nature. How does reading Thoreau's novel help you understand these stories and films better? Also, what new aspects of the American experience do these stories and films bring out that Thoreau didn't explore? Some suggestions: Into the Wild, Brokeback Mountain, Dancing with Wolves, An Inconvenient Truth, and the television show Man v. Wild.
  5. Thoreau refers to his two-year stint at Walden Pond as a "private experiment." Conduct your own private experiment and seek out a patch of "wildness" close to home, just as Thoreau's patch of wildness was about a mile away from his hometown. You might not have two years, but give yourself a good hour to do nothing but be alone and observe your surroundings. What kind of plants do you see? Animals? What sort of changes and activities do you observe, even in the brief hour you spend there? What kind of thoughts float into your head? What are your own conclusions from your private experiment?

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