Walden

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Walden (full title: Walden; or, Life in the Woods), one of the classics of nature writing, is a work by Henry David Thoreau, first published in 1854. Generally considered Thoreau's masterwork and, indeed, a masterpiece of American literature, the book's initial reception, while not unfriendly, was certainly modest, both as to the critics views and its commercial success. This is in sharp contrast to the extremely popular and influential position the book has come to occupy today.

Thoreau began work on Walden while he was still living at Walden Pond in the years 1845-47. However, the book itself, rather than being a mere chronology of his time at Walden Pond, explicates his views on society and, especially, nature and man's relationship thereto.

As a work of nature writing, Walden has come to occupy a position as one of the seminal works of this genre. Indeed, it has become something akin to a sacred text of today's conservation and environmental movement. Along with the works of John Muir and Aldo Leopold, among others, it continues to inspire new generations of environmentally conscious individuals.

Walden also stands as one of the early voices countering the rush towards industrialization and the values of an industrial society. Throughout the 19th century, the idea gained currency that "progress" was, in and of itself, a virtue and an unquestioned benefit to mankind. Thoreau, in the pages of Walden, brought this basic core value and assumption of the industrial revolution under question, espousing instead a radical individualism whose fundamental values were to be rooted in something other than the pursuit of material wealth.