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by Henry David Thoreau

The Woodchopper

Character Analysis

The woodchopper is one of Thoreau's rare companions in the woods. Of French Canadian background, he is a purely natural man, not very bright in the bookish sense, but woods-smart (as opposed to street-smart), and learned in practical things. He is a "simple and natural" man, Thoreau tells us, and, due to his simplicity, he's perfectly happy, "a well of good humor and contentment." This is in stark contrast to the men who live "lives of quiet desperation" in the cities (Visitors.9-10).

The one fault of the woodchopper is that he might just be too simple. Despite his "positive originality," Thoreau finds him lacking in the intellectual department since he is so "primitive and immersed in his animal life" (Visitors.14). In a way, the woodchopper is Thoreau's temptation: why not be totally natural and simple? But for Thoreau, to be a complete man, you still need to be intellectual, philosophical, and concerned with the rest of humanity. How do you measure up?