Summary – Chapter Sixteen ‘The Pond in the Winter’
He says how nature, unlike humans, does not ask questions. In the winter, his morning work consists of taking his axe and pail to fetch water. He compares the iced over and dormant pond to the marmots that close their eyelids. He had to cut his way through the snow and then the ice to get his water.
He watched the fishermen that still came and then describes the beauty of the pickerel fish. He calls them ‘small Waldens in the animal kingdom, Waldenses’.
The narrative shifts to relate how he wanted to find out the depth of the pond as it had been described as bottomless. He measured it with ‘a cod-line and a stone’ and saw that it came to 102 feet; he points out that another five feet could be added to this as it has risen.
He describes the ice cutting by the men who visit the pond and says how in 1846-1847 a hundred men came for the ice. He refers to this metaphorically and compares them to men ploughing a field.
Walden ice is described as being like its water as when one looks closely, it has a green tint, but at a distance is ‘beautifully blue’. Through the actions of these men, Thoreau declares that others in the South and other countries will be able to drink from his well.
The chapter finishes with his point that in the morning he bathes his intellect in the philosophy of the ‘Bhagvat-Geeta’. In comparison, the modern world and its literature ‘seem puny and trivial’.
Analysis – Chapter Sixteen
By stating that the modern world and its literature ‘seem puny and trivial’ after studying what he refers to as the ‘Bhagvat-Geeta’, Thoreau demonstrates again that he tries to look beyond the philosophy and societal norms he has been raised with. The ‘Bhagvat-Geeta’ is a Hindu scripture and is a part of the Mahabharata.
This chapter is mainly dedicated to the effects brought about with winter, and is notably concerned with the ice on the pond. The colours of it are described lovingly and his interest in the pond is also made manifest in the desire to measure its depth. Such detail demonstrate once more how he did as he set out to do, which was to suck the marrow out of life and immerse himself in this experiment.
Walden: Chapter 16