Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
As the title of the chapter indicates, this section of the book centers on the value of reading. First, Thoreau establishes his opinion that society is poorly read, especially in the classics, which are the "noblest recorded thoughts of man." He feels that through a study of the classics, which are filled with eternal truths, man can improve himself. Unfortunately, contemporary man, if he reads at all, tends to immerse himself in popular fiction or business reading.
Thoreau also points out that quality is more important than quantity in reading. During his stay at Walden Pond, Thoreau had few books with him, and most of them were classics. But he read them in the original language and studied them in great depth, seeking the truths they had to offer. He feels that such study of great literature is the only way for a person to become wiser.
Thoreau's role as a social reformer and humanist are best revealed in this chapter. The tone in which he appeals to men is never authoritative, but instructive and persuasive. His highly imaginative mind creates images and language that inspire the reader and promote a sense of cultural awareness.