Was Thoreau Dependent on The Division of Labor While He Lived At Walden’s Pond?

English Essay # 22

Henry David Thoreau wrote a book about the twenty-six months that he spent in the “nature” living the “simple” life. Thoreau lived from 1817 to 1862 and wrote in his book that he didn’t approve of modern life. He believed that all of the luxuries society enjoyed were useless and undeserved. He claimed that he believed people should go live the “simple” life in nature. In his book, Henry Thoreau repeatedly attacked the whole idea of the division of labor.  Thoreau made it clear that part of the reason for his twenty-six month experiment was to escape the division of labor. So did he escape the division of labor which he claimed  to so strongly despise?

He did not. First off he was talking about how every man should be independent and  self sufficient, but he lived a mile from his neighbors and only two miles from his mother! He said he built his shack on Walden Pond himself in order to be independent from the division of labor but he wasn’t. He used nails that he didn’t forge, tools he didn’t make, and he got help from neighbors in the house raising. The vary shack he lived in was a product of a system he claimed to oppose.

So was his food. He used seeds that he bought from the near by village to grow food. Henry even rented a horse and plow. He also bought rice, and a whole list of other ingredients that he couldn’t grow. He did fish for some of his dinners but even that indirectly was part of the division of labor because he had to buy fishing tackle in order to fish.

Thoreau was very reliant on society to help him survive. He also went into town at least twice a week to get supplies and socialize. He visited his mother often, everything that he enjoyed while in town or at his mother’s was a direct result of the division of labor.

Everything around him in his little cabin, from furniture to silverware, was a product of society in some way or another. If you have to use money at all you are fundamentally connected to the division of labor, Henry Thoreau most certainly used money. He has many detailed lists in his book about what he bought and what it cost him, in money. Money is a basic part of the division on labor which he hated.

There is no question that Henry David Thoreau was not free from the division of labor. He may have criticized the way society works at a fundamental level, but he was unable to change it or even escape it for two years.


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