Walden: Chapter 2
Summary – Chapter Two ‘Where I Lived, and What I Lived For’
In his imagination, he has ‘bought all the farms in succession’ that he has surveyed. He came close to owning the Hollowell place until the owners changed their minds. He was attracted to it because it is about two miles from the village.
We are told that what follows is a lengthy description of his time spent at Walden and ‘for convenience puts two years of his experiences into one’. When he moved in ‘by accident’ on Independence Day in 1845 the house was not ready for winter ‘but was merely a defense against the rain’. He also tells how he has only ever owned a boat and tent before.
His home was in the woods ‘by the shore of a small pond’ and about a mile and a half from Concord. Although the view from his door was ‘contracted’ he ‘did not feel crowded or confined in the least’. It is so withdrawn that he describes it as being in a place, ‘forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe’.
He describes his routine of getting up early and bathing in the pond and calls this a ‘religious exercise’. He goes on then to venerate mornings as such: ‘Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour.’ He also looks at mornings figuratively and says ‘moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep’. He adds that we must learn to ‘reawaken’ and have ‘an infinite expectation of the dawn’.
He expands on his reasons for wanting to live this way and says that he wanted to ‘live deep and suck out all the marrow of life’. This is in contrast with what he sees as people frittering their lives away ‘by detail’ and urges us to live by ‘simplicity’ instead.
Our lives are compared with a German Confederacy ‘made up of petty states’. He questions the railroad, work and the post office does so to criticize the complications and supposed necessity of these different parts of our existence.
He relates a Hindu story he has read and what it tells of a king’s son who was raised by a forester. When he is told of his ‘true’ identity, ‘the misconception of his character was removed’. He says how we should ‘spend one day as deliberately as Nature’ and ignore the rush of the world passing by.
Analysis – Chapter Two
This narrative is purposeful in the way it urges others to embrace aspects of life that are either taken for granted or overlooked. Thoreau insists, for instance, that we should enjoy our mornings and he also makes the point that we should appreciate ‘simplicity’. By cherishing this time of the day, and because he asks others to do the same, he leads by example and shows that there are other ways to live that differ from what has become the normal routine. He follows this up by questioning the modern influences of the railroad and the post office and in so doing he reiterates his point that it is possible to live more simply.