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MonkeyNotes-Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Chapter Two: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For

Summary

In this chapter, Thoreau recalls his search for a home. Before deciding to live at Walden Pond, he spent a good deal of time looking at other pieces of land, even purchasing them in his head. These mental real-estate transactions gave him a certain expertise on the buying and selling of property, as well as a good deal of insight into what kind of home he actually wanted. In his mind, he imagines meeting the farmers, discussing their farm produce, and buys their property at the farmer's request price. Trusting the farmer's word in good faith, he presents no deeds or papers to sign. Through this creative mental exercise, Thoreau lives for an hour or a month in many different homes. At one point, Thoreau does begin the process of purchasing the Hollowell place, but before the deal is finalized, he changes his mind. The farmer offers Thoreau his ten-dollar deposit back, but Thoreau insists that the farmer keep it. In his mind, Thoreau has already owned the farm and is simply selling it back to the owner for what he paid. In the end, Thoreau does not buy a farm or a piece of land, for he realizes that owning material property is against his principle and would tie him down. Instead, for his experiment, he borrows a piece of land from Emerson. Thoreau's new home is located in the woods between Concord and Lincoln, with the lovely Walden Pond right outside his door. Thoreau is pleased that he can enjoy the beauty of the place for free.

Thoreau appropriately moves to Walden Pond on Independence Day (July 4) in 1845. Although he has not yet completed his cabin in the woods, it can already supply him the comfort and warmth necessary to survive until he can finish building it. He is eager to begin his experiment and to experience the daily serenity and beauty that Walden Pond offers; he especially looks forward to the mornings. For Thoreau, morning is the awakening hour-the time when new aspirations and high creative genius are born. He believes that all the great things in history must have happened in the morning, when man was truly awake. Unfortunately, most of mankind spends their mornings working at a job that they do not like; they are enslaved to a career and unable to enjoy the splendid natural world around them.


Thoreau's discussion of morning time leads him to point out other trappings of "civilized" society. He feels that mankind is preoccupied with the passage of time. People rush from one task to the next, never taking time for reflection or enjoying the simple pleasures of living. He also feels that society is too concerned with "news". He has no desire to hear about distant people whom he does not know; instead, he wants to be concerned only with the people with whom he has relationships. Similarly, he believes he should have only a small number of relationships in his life, for he never wants to be overwhelmed by the responsibilities of such entanglements. Thoreau wants to have a manageable number of good friends with whom he can share his simple existence.

Finally, Thoreau says that all people can improve their lives and live hopefully, if only they live more simply. If man removes himself from the clutter of social existence, he can begin to see the difference between appearance and reality. By living in tune with Nature, man can grasp the reality of today and get a glimpse of eternity.

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MonkeyNotes-Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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