Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. What was Thoreau’s philosophy toward humankind’s interaction with nature? Was nature a resource to be used to benefit humankind or was it something to be left alone, spared of all human intervention?

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a short philosophical book entitled Nature. Emerson and Thoreau shared many similar ideas concerning human interaction with nature. What examples of Emersonian philosophy as depicted in Nature can you find in Thoreau’s own life?

3. Prepare a short biography on one or two of Thoreau’s Concord friends, such as Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Ralph Waldo Emerson. How did they differ from Thoreau in their attitudes and way of life? How were they similar?

4. Thoreau wrote poetry as well as prose. Select a few of his poems, decide on the main idea in each, and find similar ideas in Walden or A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Suggested poems: “My Prayer,” “The Inward Morning,” “The Summer Rain,” “Inspiration,” and “The Fall of the Leaf.”

5. Read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and compare King’s and Thoreau’s ideas on civil disobedience.

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