Perhaps the greatest literary value of Thoreau of Walden Pond is that it covers Thoreau’s entire life. The biography does not concentrate on the circumstances surrounding the composition of Thoreau’s greatest work, Walden, but instead devotes considerable space to Thoreau’s journey up the Concord and Merrimack rivers, his Harvard education, and his journeys to the Maine wilderness toward the end of his relatively short life. Such an Overview of Thoreau’s life is vital to an understanding of his work, for Thoreau’s personal beliefs and experiences have a particularly profound effect on his writing.
In Thoreau of Walden Pond, North incorporates lively, crisp prose and succinct paragraphs that make even relatively complex ideas or situations easy to grasp. To further liven the narrative, North makes frequent use of quotations from Walden, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and Thoreau’s fascinating journals.
The life and works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau’s friend, occasional employer, and frequent philosophical model, play an important part in North’s biography. From the prefatory poem to the excerpt from the transcendentalist’s great funeral oration for his friend, simply entitled “Thoreau,” the biography takes great pains to depict the influence that Emerson has on Thoreau.