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MonkeyNotes-Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Chapter Sixteen: The Pond in Winter

Summary

This chapter concerns itself mainly with the constitution of Walden Pond, a subject that Thoreau ponders on many different levels. Since a local myth argues that Walden Pond is bottomless, 2Thoreau decides to study the contour of the lake bottom by using his knowledge of surveying to measure its depth. Thoreau's study concludes that at its very deepest, the pond is just over 100 feet in depth. He then ponders the properties of the pond in winter. Since he must get his water from the pond, he must cut through the thick layer of ice to the water below. He is amazed at the sight of life underneath the frozen water. It encourages him to study the other frozen ponds in the area. As Thoreau surveyed and studied the other ponds, he came up with some theories about how they were all formed. He knows his ideas are full of flaws, for mankind is not able to fathom all the great laws of Nature.

In January, Irish laborers, under the direction of Yankee foremen, come to Walden Pond and break its frozen cover into large cubes which will be shipped to warmer climates all over the world. They work for sixteen days and remove approximately 10,000 tons of ice. At first, Thoreau is upset over this violation of his pond. He is later pacified by two events. The laborers occasionally fall through a crack in the ice to the freezing waters below; he watches as they are saved just before they freeze to death. It is as if the pond is fighting back. The second thing that pacifies Thoreau is the fact that the pond is re-frozen within a month, almost as a defiance against the stripping of its ice. He also is comforted by the thought that great men from all over the world will be enjoying the drinking water from his pond and that "the pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred waters of the Ganges."


Notes

Thoreau looks at Walden Pond in many different ways. Through surveying methodology, he measures the depth of the water and finds it to be 100 feet at its deepest point. He also studies the pond in its frozen state, noticing the various hues of the ice; up close the ice almost looks green, while at a distance it is white with a tint of blue. He compares the differing appearances of the ice to humans. People at a distance look and seem very different than when they are investigated up close. Thoreau then thinks about the fact that still water left alone becomes "putrid," whereas ice remains constantly fresh and pure. He compares the different states of water to the purities and impurities that human life goes through under different situations. As always, Thoreau sees many relationships between mankind and Nature.

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