Burrough’s Assessment of Thoreau


In John Burrough’s “A Critical Glance into Thoreau”, I agree with some of the things he says about Thoreau and disagree with other statements. Thoreau was a critic of the life around him and by going to live in the woods he did leave the civilization he was apart of. I do agree with Burrough that “his nature-lore was an aside… while he ponders on higher things.” (Burrough 43) Thoreau used his journey to list the woes of civilization such as a farmer having a house and being made poor from the expense or people who are “needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such… as their neighbors have.” (Thoreau 27) Nature itself is not talked about more than what is going on with humans. Thoreau’s connection to nature is his act of going back to the basics of food, shelter, and clothing which eliminates wastefulness that harms nature. I also agree that Walden “embodies a fresh and unique personality, and portrays an experiment in the art of living close to nature, in a racy and invigorating style.” (Burrough 44) Thoreau offers a new perspective about different aspects of society that get passed over as being normal and in this way the importance of them is questioned, such as the benefits of paying to go school rather than having real life experiences that teach a trade or how he questions the importance of fashion changes and how they should not matter. Burrough’s statement that Thoreau’s philosophy is “nearly always illogical” I disagree with, because Thoreau’s philosophy of living life without being taught what to do, what to say, or what path to follow is very logical and important. He is advocating freedom and creativity in order for people to enjoy life and not continue a way of life just because it’s always been done that way. Also, he advocates for people to live within their means, such as not buying a house that’s unaffordable or buying things to fit in with others. Thoreau advocates for people being content with that they have, because people can have peace when they are not chasing after the next big thing. He says, “Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes be content with less?” (Thoreau 28)

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