- Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labours of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
This exemplifies how Walden criticises the way work has come to supersede the possibility of enjoying life. It also questions the notion that the citizens of the United States are free as long as they are tied to their work.
- He has no time to be anything but a machine.
This point reiterates the argument made in the first quotation, as time is seen to be eaten up by the work ethic.
- Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.
There is a spirit of independence and free-thinking that courses through this work, and this quotation usefully demonstrates this stance.
- My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish.
Thoreau describes his initial reasons for going to Walden Pond.
- I thus found that the student who wishes for a shelter can obtain one for a lifetime at an expense not greater than the rent which he now pays annually.
In this work, he gives many practical tips to the readers as he explains the practicalities of living at Walden Pond and this reference highlights how possible it is to not be tied to being a wage slave or mount up debts from renting a home.
- I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
This reference explain his reasons for living at Walden Pond in more detail.
- For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man?
This quotations highlights the esteem in which Thoreau holds the classics, and in turn demonstrates the respect he has for this aspect of high culture.
- Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.
Prior to this reference, Thoreau discusses the theme of being lost literally and then moves on to talk metaphorically here about the benefits of self-knowledge.
- We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.
This quotation explains how, for Thoreau, we need to keep the areas of wilderness for our own good and refers to it as the ‘tonic of wildness’.
- Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.
In this reference, patriotism is challenged and referred to as a parasite on our thoughts.
Walden: Top Ten Quotes