Henry David Thoreau Henry David Thoreau American literature during the first half of the nineteenth century took many forms and ideas that still effect our ever so changing society today. Henry David Thoreau was among the notable writers during this time, and his impact of American literature will not soon be forgotten. His perseverance, love for nature, and humanitarian beliefs helped to mold the ideas and values of early American history. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12 in 1817. His parents, both abolitionists of slavery, were John and Cynthia Thoreau.
During his childhood years his parents, along with Henrys older siblings John Jr. and Helen, often took the family on long walks though the valleys and hills of Concord. The seeds of Henrys love for nature were planted during this time. As a young school boy, at the Concord public school and later at the Concord Academy, many of his peers sought after him as loner who took everything too serious. In 1833 Henrys parents had saved enough money to send him off to college at Harvard University.
Even though he barely passed the entrance exam, he would later become one of the top students in his graduating class. In 1836 financial and health problems forced Thoreau to postpone his studies at Harvard and seek a job. He taught school for a semester in Canton, Massachusetts and returned to Harvard in the Spring of 1837. He took a full load of classes that Spring and Summer semesters and graduated in August of 1837. After graduating Thoreau had no idea what he wanted to do with his education.
After debating over many different careers he finally concluded that teaching would be his calling. He landed a position at Center School in 1837 in Concord, however he resigned two weeks later after many teachers and students complained of his teaching methods and strictness in the classroom. Over the next year he worked many small jobs around Concord, and also became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson. The elder Emerson influenced Thoreau in his belief in Transcendentalism. Thoreau was indelibly marked by his mentors philosophy (Sanborn 122).
In 1838 Henry and his brother John started their own public school in Concord. John taught English and math, while Henry taught science and foreign languages. The brothers had completely different teaching methods and often times came at odds with each other. Nevertheless, the school brought in more and more enrollment every year. In 1841 John became deathly ill and they were forced to close the school.
It was during this time, while watching his brother die, Henry began writing the Dial. The Dial was mostly poetry and short essays written over the following four years. Despite the prolong struggle with John health, he died in 1842. The death of John stuck Henry severely. After his death Henry sought after his brother through travels in nature in remembrance of his brothers love for nature. In 1844 another unfortunate event happen when Thoreau and a friend, Edward Hoar, where camping in the Concord woods.
Thoreau accidentally started a fire that would burn up a larough Thoreau could easily afford it he refuse and was sent to jail. Thoreau believed that he would set an example for the community in revolting against the tax. Eventually Thoreaus sister would pay the tax for Henry and get him out of jail. After living at Walden Pond for a year he once again ran into financial difficulties. He moved in with the Emersons, and later with his parents in 1947.
Once again he found himself without a steady job (Paul 25). In 1848 he became somewhat of a professional in surveying and lecturing. Over the next five years Thoreau worked diligently on revising Walden and later wrote A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The last fifteen years of his life he traveled much of the upper United States and Canada. It was also during this time that Thoreau became a strong advocate of abolition.
He was one of the few that supported John Browns protests.Perhaps taxation and slavery were issues on which he felt compelled to take a public stand precisely because they were so clearly threats to the individual integrity and freedom of every American, whether free or slave. (Schnieder 23) In 1861 he became seriously ill with weak lungs. Doctors told him to go to Minnesota where the air was drier and easier on easier on his lungs. When he was well enough, he moved their with a friend named Horace Mann Jr. Shortly after he became homesick and chose to move back to Concord to die in the place loved. On May 6, 1862, at the age of 45, Henry David Thoreau died quietly in the bed that he built.
Thoreaus idea and beliefs make him a renowned author in American literature still today. Bibliography Paul, Sherman. Thoreau: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Sanborn, F.B.
The Life of Henry David Thoreau. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917. Schneider, Richard. Henry David Thoreau. Boston: Twayne Up, 1987.
Bibliography Paul, Sherman. Thoreau: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Sanborn, F.B. The Life of Henry David Thoreau. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917. Schneider, Richard. Henry David Thoreau.
Boston: Twayne Up, 1987.