excerpts from walden by henry david thoreau (1854)

July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau began a personal
experiment. By simplifying his lifestyle and committing to
what he called “essential living” in nature, he hoped to
discover truths about himself, society, and the natural
world. He built a small cabin by Walden Pond near
Concord, Massachusetts and resided there for more than
two years. His 300 pages of writings about this experience
became the book Walden—now considered one of the
best-known works of American nonfiction.
Complete the following tasks for the below paragraph from the chapter “Where I Lived and What I
Lived For”:
1. Re-read your assigned passage, annotating for unfamiliar terms, key ideas, and figurative
2. Identify and decode all examples of figurative language (metaphors, similes, personification,
hyperbole, allusion).
3. Paraphrase your assigned passage. Include your decoding of figurative language. Switch 1 st
person POV to 3rd.
4. Create an illustration that depicts the main idea of your passage. Try going beyond a literal
representation of the text—don’t simply draw one of his similes, for example. Maybe find a way
to illustrate a modern-day connection/ application to Thoreau’s idea.
Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like
pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its
occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has
hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the
rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a
thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the
midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousandand-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and
not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.
Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes,
five; and reduce other things in proportion.
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