Thoreau's "Life Without Principle" Analytical Essay

An analysis of Henry David Thoreau's "Life Without Principle."
# 150988 | 1,730 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2012 | US
Published on May 16, 2012 in Literature (American) , English (Analysis) , Philosophy (History - 19th Century)

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This paper examines the contradictions that appear to have been present in the literature and the life of Henry David Thoreau, focusing on examples in his essay "Life without Principle." The paper points out Thoreau's profound views in his works that would be difficult for anyone to actually incorporate and practice in their daily life. According to the paper, the biggest contradiction within Thoreau's literature and personal life is demonstrated in "Life Without Principle." In this work the author took on a number of issues of society and existence, related to money, responsibility to nature, and one's fellow man. The paper points out how these views contrasted sharply with Thoreau's own life. The paper concludes by exploring Thoreau's own life and showing its contrast to his work "Life Without Principle."

From the Paper:

"In many ways, there are a number of contradictions that appear to have been present and existent with the literature and the actual life of Henry David Thoreau, the celebrated American author who is best known for composing the manuscript of Walden and ``Civil Disobedience''. Within his works, the author often times supported stark, profound views that would have been difficult for anyone to actually incorporate and practice in their daily life. For instance, Walden is largely about the responsibility and the exertion of the individual to live in accordance with nature. Yet Thoreau was constantly aided by the help of others within his own life, and was the recipient of the generosity of his friend and fellow author, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The contradictions between his literary views and actual life are numerous and profound. The reason for ``Civil Disobedience'' was partially related to the author's jailing for his failure to pay taxes. While the essay would encourage such antisocial behavior, Thoreau, in the meantime, was freed.
"The jailer, Sam Staples, was a friend who offered to pay the tax himself. Thoreau refused. Then his Aunt Maria showed up and paid the tax...''(Cheever 60).

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Borst, Raymond. The Thoreau Log: A Documentary Life of Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862. New York: G.K. Hall. 1992. Print.
  • Cheever, Susan. American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau; Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. Detroit: Thorndike Press. 2006. Print.
  • Thoreau, Henry David. "Life Without Principle".

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

Thoreau's "Life Without Principle" (2012, May 16) Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Thoreau's "Life Without Principle"" 16 May 2012. Web. 22 January. 2021. <>