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by Henry David Thoreau

Walden Theme of Technology and Modernization

Walden is, among other things, a book about time. According to Thoreau, time has been hijacked by modernity, where technological advances such as the railroad and the telegraph have sped up life at an inhuman rate. But, from our author's perspective, we've gotten to a point where these technologies are no longer tools. Instead of us running the machines, the machines are running us. No matter how hard we work, we can never keep pace, let alone pause to think about what we're doing. (Yikes – we wonder what Thoreau would think about, um, the Internet?)

Thoreau wants us all to slow down and reconnect with real time, Nature's time. By slowing down, we give ourselves some space to think about our values and the direction this fast-paced life is taking us. (This is advice Shmoop thinks could be useful to just about everyone.) Like John Connor, Thoreau wants to take the future back from the machines and return it to human hands.

Questions About Technology and Modernization

  1. What are some of the technologies and "modern" advances discussed by Thoreau in Walden?
  2. How have developments such as the railroad and the telegraph changed the pace of life, according to Thoreau? What are the effects of this change on human beings, on their quality of life, on their psychological state?
  3. What is time like in nature? Why isn't the book written in chronological order, month by month, from March, 1845 to September, 1847, as opposed to a more seasonal order, moving from spring to winter and back to spring?
  4. What are the unique features of each of the seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter – at Walden Pond?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Thoreau rails against the dehumanizing effects of technology. No good can come of modernization.

In Walden, Thoreau immerses himself in the time of nature, which is governed by the eternal cycle of the seasons.

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