Walden Themes and Analysis 📖

The entire theme of Henry David Thoreau’s book, ‘Walden,’ is hinged on the need for a conscious endeavor of the individual to discover themself and live life to the fullest.


Henry David Thoreau

In ‘Walden,’ Thoreau tries to drive his point by anchoring on such important themes as how to discover oneself, the gains of living a life of a recluse, appreciating nature, consistency, and hardness, and mastering the art of selfhood. These themes are all fundamentally suited to his quest to live life in its purest, most pristine state. 

Walden Themes

Appreciation of Nature

Throughout his life, Thoreau’s entire theses were connected around the love and appreciation of nature and natural things. In ‘Walden,’ Thoreau argues that if people were more conscious and attentive to nature, and forgo pettiness provide by materialism, they would obtain a much better enjoyment and satisfaction from life, not to mention that the world would become a far, better place. 

For Thoreau, life was out there in the woods, not in society. And resigning himself to enjoying the pristineness of nature in Walden woods was worth more than all the gold in the world to him. 

Discovering Oneself

Finding oneself, and having an independent, progressive mindset was the center of Thoreau’s advocacy, and this is communicated rather frequently in ‘Walden.’ This theme is the reason the author abandons everything else in society to seek a life that is truly costume-made for himself.

Many a time we tend to ignore our passions because we pick friends, family, and society’s opinions ahead of ours. However, in ‘Walden,’ Thoreau shows us how to do it and this feels unbelievably hard as it comes with a huge sacrifice of stepping out of your comfort zone and letting go of the people you care about. 

Humility and Hard work

Part of the characteristics of a true transcendentalist like Thoreau, humility and hard work are two strong moral lessons Thoreau aims to pass across to his ‘Walden’ readers. Perhaps the reason Thoreau stressed these subjects was because of the usually proud mindset of materialistic people who characterized his society. 

Thoreau found that mentality repugnant and corruptible and preached about how simplicity and an honest-to-god occupation were all the arsenal a person would ever need to manage a fulfilled life.

Key Moments in Walden

  1. Walden’ begins with Thoreau recounting how he spent two years in the wilderness of Walden Woods, outside of society. He talks about friends and family’s concerns for him, with some even worried about his mental health. He explains he’s adamant and his mind made up as what he seeks is to ‘live desperately’ and alone. 
  2. Thoreau explains he decided to leave society because humans are doing it all wrong, all the time. They work so hard. Are obsessed with materialism. He also hints they are proud and generally corrupt. 
  3. Thoreau places ancient less sophisticated cavemen over the humans of his civilization because they were free from unnecessary distractions and more spiritually aware. Humans, on the other hand, Thoreau believes are lacking on the spiritual front – which to him is the only important thing, and also the core of his belief system of transcendentalism. 
  4. With this conviction, Thoreau embarks on a journey of the woods, seeking a simple lifestyle – which typically includes building his home from scratch and keeping a small farm to grow crops for food. He takes very careful notes about his expenditures – including what it cost to build his cabin, feed, and clothe.
  5. As he lives by himself in Walden pond, he feels happier than he’d ever been – counting himself lucky to be neighbors with nature herself. He tries to enjoy every bit of it and often draws comparisons to how fulfilling it is than being in a human society that submerges one’s spiritual, and independent thinking.
  6. Thoreau works hard, but for lesser hours, growing beans on his farm – and often spending most of his remaining hours enjoying the spectatorship of watching and observing the interactions among natural things and creatures. He also enjoys meditating and reading books, the latter of which he argues people should do more.
  7. From time to time, Thoreau entertains visitors – most of who are peasant, simple dwellers like him. He would usually engage them verbally just to find out their intellectual sophisticatedness and is quite surprised at how good they are at what they do. 
  8. Thoreau does go to the village occasionally when he feels lonely but gets into trouble once with authorities for evading tax. He returns to the woods after his release from the village custody to continue his daydreams and to enjoy his wild but beautiful surroundings. 
  9. He joins in the company of a few people in the neighborhood – John Field being one of them. He finds the poor Irishman a little lacking in mentality – stretching also to spirituality. Thoreau lectures John on good eating choices and the need to connect with his inner self. 
  10. Thoreau returns to his wild surroundings and enjoys the company of animals and plants some more and is fascinated by a conflict in the kingdom of ants. Winter comes not long after, he is forced to renovate his shelter to be safe. Spring comes washing away the frosty residues of winter and Thoreau always learns moral lessons from observing these natural phenomena play out. 
  11. After exactly two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau returns to society in Concord with a new perspective on life.

Style and Tone 

Walden’ is written in the first person perspective with author Thoreau as the central character of the book. In terms of style, Thoreau employs a scientific technique – which enables him to utilize the observational and journaling process. Thoreau was aware and intentional with every moment spent at Walden pond as he kept a record of even the smallest detail of things happening around him. Thoreau’s tone for ‘Walden’ is confident, overknowing, and a little condescending. 

Figurative Language

Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ utilizes a good number of metaphorical expressions and this is seen throughout the book. Aside from metaphors, there’s also a reasonable admixture of simile and irony in action.

Analysis of Symbols in Walden

Walden Pond

Thoreau ties Walden pond to several symbolic meanings, and one of such meanings implies a passage for connecting and unlocking one’s spirituality. Thoreau’s evidence comes from the fact that the pond’s water is so pure, pristine, and crystal clear that merely interacting or daydreaming with it can release one’s spirit. 

The Winter’s Ice

With the winter’s ice, Thoreau embeds an allegory that rehashes the very argument he had always promoted; that humans are ruthless, uncaring, and exploitative towards nature. He draws his evidence from how, during the thick of winter – when Walden ponds are covered up in ice, commercial people troop in their number and cut out large parts of the ponds’ icy surface without caring about the impact on the ponds.


What is the most important message in ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau?

Being in touch with one’s inner feelings and discovering one’s full potential is the summation of key takeaways floated in ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau.

What figurative expression did Thoreau use in ‘Walden’?

Metaphors are infused here and there in ‘Walden,’ but put that apart, there’s also heavy use of simile and ironies. 

What is the tone and style in ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau?

Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ uses a bold and confident tone that sometimes even feels condescending. His style is generally scientific and observational. 

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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