English, Department of


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College in the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Department of English, Under the Supervision of Professor Charles W. Mignon. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 1971
Copyright 1971 William H. Hansen.


In the second paragraph of Walden, Thoreau explains that he is going to give a sincere and an honest account of his life in Nature to satisfy the curiosity of his friends who have expressed a desire to know the details of his two-year adventure at Walden Pond. In the third paragraph, he say's that he is also going to write something about the bad condition of his neighbors in and around Concord. These first two statements of purpose are important not only because they indicate what the book is going to be about, but also because they represent the dominant organizational pattern that Thoreau uses throughout the book to press his argument that Nature's way of living is good and civilization's way of living is bad. Throughout the book, Thoreau continually contrasts Nature in its numerous forms, including his own life as a natural human being, against the unnatural and wretched condition of the civilized world in its many forms. In "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," he divides the subject matter between his search for a natural environment in which to live and the lack of reality that characterizes civilization and makes it an unsuitable place to live. In "Sounds," he writes about the inspirational sounds and sights of Nature which he could perceive from his house at Walden Pond and the sordid things of the civilized, world that he could see and hear from this same place. "Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors" has much to say about the civilization that once lived near the road that goes by Walden Pond, but whose ruins are presently giving way to the prolific return of the original and natural inhabitants. Thoreau organizes most of his chapters in this fashion, continually juxtaposing the evils and weaknesses of civilization with the goodness, strength and beauty of Nature (but not always in the same order that he first mentions them in his opening remarks of "Economy").