Walden Character List 📖

Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ floats characters that are few and simple – just as far as necessary for a semi-autobiographic work such as this masterpiece.


Henry David Thoreau

On the front row in ‘Walden’s’ character list is Thoreau himself – who serves as the central character in this lesson-packed, but also enigmatic, book. Other interesting characters Thoreau scraps from around his Walden neighborhood and the outer society of whose ideologies he strives to live without. Let’s explore some fundamental characters in Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden.’ 

Walden Characters 

Henry David Thoreau

The writer Henry David Thoreau becomes the central character of his book. The whole point of writing ‘Walden’ was to explain his whereabouts for two years to a small group of friends who wanted to know about his experience without that duration. 

Thoreau was a stern upholder of the ideals of Transcendentalism – a movement pioneered by his mentor and later friend Ralph Waldo Emerson that encouraged personal intuition and spirituality as a way of making logical decisions. 

Thoreau became so fascinated by the ideals of individuality and selfhood following his falling out with society and its hustle culture. He thought it was too flawed, corrupt, and didn’t allow people to be their most productive selves. 

For this reason, Henry David Thoreau would go on and abandon, for two years, social life as we knew it to live in Walden Pond – building a cabin for shelter in the middle of nowhere and tilling the soil to grow crops for food. 

All through his stay in the wilderness, Henry David Thoreau lived and fed himself without aid from anyone, although he one time took a trip into town where he was arrested for evading taxes, and did occasionally spend time with a closeby neighbor – yet even that was more of an intellectual experiment than it was a neighborly get-together.

Amos Bronson Alcott

Although Thoreau played the central role for most of the book, he did talk fairly extensively about a few persons who also made the character list. One such person was Amos Bronson Alcott, who he referred to as the philosopher. 

Alcott was a thinker and great social change maker who carried out several reforms through his Boston Temple school, and later, the Concord public school. Henry David Thoreau’s admiration for Alcott was clear, and this showed in his description of the acclaimed scholar middle 1800s.

Alex Therien

He’s a Canadian who Thoreau prefers to identify by his occupational role, the woodchopper. In ‘Walden,’ Thoreau has the liberty of spending a brief moment with him and describes him as a simplistic and dignified hard worker who is fully tapping into his animalistic nature by enjoying the thrills of the wild. 

Even though Therien gets appraised in Thoreau’s observation, Thoreau still finds him lacking and needing help in the aspects of spirituality and intellectuality. Thoreau discovers this after engaging Therien in a philosophical and moral conversation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thoreau’s mentor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a great man of his age. Emerson write so many essays based on the ideals of transcendentalism and is regarded today as a major pioneer of the movement.

The thinker spent the latter years of his life popularizing the movement – often traveling across Europe and the Americas and stopping at schools and tutor homes, organizing lectures, and spreading the knowledge of selfhood and transcendentalism. 

Henry David Thoreau gives credit to Emerson for the success of his ‘Walden’ accomplishments being that he was the owner of the ranch at Walden Pond, where Thoreau was based, and conducted his social experiment for two years.

John Field

A man of little means, Thoreau refers to Field in one of his ‘Walden’ essays. He admits to an honest admiration for Field and his humble living – but labels him unambitious and rigor less. Field, an Irishman, lives with his wife, and children on a farm just on the outskirts of Concord. 

The reader should notice a feeling of empathy for Field as Thoreau describes his life. The author imagines him as one of the many underprivileged men who are living below their means because he has no important social connections or outstanding social skills or abilities to change his story. In the short while that Thoreau spends with him, he mostly lectures and educates him on society in general as well as on good eating habits.

Other minor characters mentioned by Thoreau at one point or the other include his best friend William Ellery Channing, John Thoreau, Henry Clay, Fenda, Zilpha, Stratton and Breed families, Hugh Quoil, James Collins, and a Hermit. 


Who is the central character in ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau?

Thoreau becomes the central character of his book, ‘Walden,’ which is more of a memoir or autobiography. 

Why does Ralph Waldo Emerson get huge credit for Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’?

The success of Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ book would likely never have happened if the author hadn’t met Emerson, an already popular philosopher of his time, whose land Thoreau camped on for two years, and whose ideas Thoreau loved and expanded on. 

How close were Thoreau and Emerson?

Thoreau and Emerson met around the mid-1830s, and both became acquaintances, much to Thoreau’s excitement because he had always admired the works of Emerson and looked up to him as a role model. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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