What was Walden? Who was Thoreau? Walden was a retreat, a place for a man to burrow into, to reconnect with the nature that is in us all, and to re-express himself from the depths of that bond between ourselves and nature.
And Thoreau was the man for that task. Eschewing the rather pretentious literary form that we inherited from England, Thoreau, Emerson and their like struggled to produce an American idiom.
It was natural that the unimaginable expanse of land that was America would induce a man to shrug off his collar, his restricted formulaic writing style, and to run naked and free thru the woods (sylistically speaking, of course).
Thoreau breathed in the woods, the pond of Walden, and breathed out a freedom of expression that shaped our distinctly American form.
A close reading of this book will reveal the roots of so many American characteristics: conservation, natural science, protest movements...and the pencil.
Read Thoreau and "Walden, or Life in the Woods" and encounter a man deeply enmeshed in his own conscience, struggling to live by natural rules, and to protest against the restricting societal laws that seek to make all men equally subservient to "authority.
As you know, he and Ralph Waldo Emerson produced the 2 most famous consecutive questions in the English language while Thoreau was imprisoned for an act of Civil Disobedience with respect to payment of the poll tax.
Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?"
Thoreau replied, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?"
Read this book, take pleasure in the wonderful illustrations that populate it, and take away the glorious sense and privilege of being an American who partakes of the expanded freedoms that Thoreau bequeathed to us.