“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” by Henry David Thoreau
Entry V. “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” by Henry David Thoreau. Genre: Classic Essay 1. Thoreau declares his higher purpose as going off into the woods (deliberately) in search to learn of the truth. He lived to reduce life to “its lowest terms” and to find the true and genuine meaning of the world. He wants to know it solely by getting to experience it in different terms compared to others; Thoreau just wants to live and not be caught up in a materialistic society. 2.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. “ In his opening sentence Thoreau creates an antithesis that juxtaposes the concept of life and death to contrast his different ideas of truly living. He supports his decision of going off into the woods by stating that if he had done the opposite (stayed in society) he would have regretted it. 3. Thoreau uses the words “dear” and “mean” as contrasts of each other in paragraph 1.
When he calls living “dear” it is simply an example of how he cherishes life and living. When he says if life “proved to be mean,” he means that there is a possibility life in its simplest form could have been harsh and unbearable. Either way, Thoreau wants to experience the answer first-hand. 4. In the similes in paragraph 2, Thoreau compares men to ants and pygmies. The rhetorical significance of this is the symbolism behind this comparison. Both ants and pygmies may seem strong but in the end, all of these actions are not beneficial and have no purpose to them.
This parallels Thoreau’s point of a person who lives for the future and not for the present. The person is wasting a day while wishing for another. The person did not capture the pleasure of living and that is the problem Thoreau wants to exploit. 5. The extended metaphor’s effect in paragraph 2 goes on and on to explain how even though humans believe ourselves to be superior over other flawed creatures and nature, we fail to realize that we are just as repetitious and flawed as they are.
Thoreau continuously uses devices like similies (like ants…, like pygmies…) and polysyndeton within his extended metaphor to slow the pace and truly extricate and emphasize the feeling about being caught chaotic in modern society. 6. Thoreau creates the effect of emphasis with his repetitions. In paragraph 2, sentence 3 he repeats, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! ” because he wants to persuade his reader that living the simple life is the way to go.
Another repetition is in paragraph 5 when he starts multiple times with “Let us rise…, Let company come…, Let the bells…” because he again wants to reiterate his point of being grateful for what we have and to make the best of our situation. 7. The paradox Thoreau develops in the second paragraph is that there are more lives being lost laboring to provide expediency than there are lives benefitting from the expediency of the creation (in this case, railroads).
“We do not ride on a rail road; it rides upon us,” meaning that we like to believe we are getting ahead but in reality we are only setting ourselves back. It is defined more blatantly in the following paragraph where he states that “We are in a big hurry to waste life. ” 8. In his answer to his own rhetorical question, Thoreau emphasizes how people are too busy planning their future to focus on enjoying what is right in front of them. The following metaphor of starvation not only catches the reader’s attention but also exaggerates his point yet again.
He makes us realize that by worrying about what might happen, we are still bringing it upon ourselves by mentally experiencing the same pain we are so desperate to avoid. The whole intention of this paper is to convince people to enjoy the senses and appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Therefore his answer is extremely effective. 9. The meaning of the phrase “starved before we are hungry” means that Thoreau wants to exploit his belief that people hurry too much in life. He believes a person cannot always rely on the promise of a tomorrow, so it is important to appreciate life today.
Thoreau is really trying to imply that people should have more gratitude for the little things in life rather than trying to just focus on the whole big picture. 10. Thoreau’s intention in paragraph 4 reveals how the big majority strives for something that he himself deems worthless. His belief is that people have grown to become more egotistical and withdrawn from others. This can be exemplified through his two metaphors which illustrate how each works today to save for tomorrow and how one watches something happen w/o helping because they haven’t started it.
The effect is pretty much the same even after all this time, because “we all work alone and for ourselves,” is a universal truth that all people can understand/relate to. 11. With this phrase in paragraph 7, Thoreau delivers a powerful thought. This is solidified by the short length and the fact that it is altogether as one and not separate. The passage talks of how Thoreau believes we should live life- in the most simple ways and that it should be carried out with the things we have been given and not things we have man-made.
The three words are different options which Thoreau uses to illuminate how even in different places we should work to achieve a life free of burden. 12. One of the metaphors Thoreau states is that “Time is but the stream I go afishing in” and this shows he is aware that his share of time is extremely small in comparison to an eternity; and that it will flow on with or without him. What he means by fishing, is that when he needs something from time, he trusts his intellect to fish for it.
His second metaphor is when he states “The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things” and here he means that overanalyzing and overthinking aren’t necessary for the happenings of life, for we are born with all the knowledge we need to survive. He cannot control or fight knowledge, but he can work with it and manipulate what he needs from it. He cannot allow himself to be attached to it, because it is what it is, whether he understands it or not.