Topics for Discussion

1. Why do you think that Thoreau is considered not merely a great American writer, but also a great American?

2. Describe Thoreau’s personality. Is he an outcast? An introvert? Antisocial? How does Thoreau’s personality match his ideas concerning humankind’s relationship with nature?

3. Is Thoreau wrong in not paying the poll tax? Is such “civil disobedience” justified and perhaps even necessary in certain situations? Explain. Can you think of any individuals in more recent history who have taken similar stances against what they felt was the infringement of government on their personal lives?

4. Why does Thoreau “abandon” civilization for almost two years and live at Walden Pond? What does he learn from the experience? What does he propose in Walden concerning nature? Economy? Materialism? Individualism?

5. Thoreau’s attitude toward the killing of wild animals is unique for his time. Why does he object to such activity? Does Thoreau believe that there are situations in which hunting is justified? Explain.

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