The Village Notes from Walden

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Walden The Village

Thoreau tells us that he went every day or two to catch up on gossip. He also went to watch the people, which he compared to watching the squirrels in the forest go about their daily activities.

"In one direction from my house there was a colony of muskrats in the river meadows; under the grove of elms and button-woods in the other horizon was a village of busy men, as curious to me as if they had been prairie dogs, each sitting at the mouth of its burrow, or running over to a neighbor's to gossip." The Village, pg. 153

He then analyzes the composition of the village by pointing out the "vitals" of the village: the grocery, bar-room, post office and bank. In addition, he notices the heavy machinery that is placed in the middle of the town square: a bell, big gun and fire-engine.

Thoreau doesn't like the village, and feels as if it is designed to make people run the gauntlet as they walk through town. The houses and shops are set up to make every person as visible as possible as they pass by. In addition, there are signs, fancy things, houses with people to call upon that all entice the passerby to stop and waste money or time. Thoreau says he escaped from town out the back way of a house after paying a visit. It was pleasant, and a relief, to leave by way of the forest.

Then, as he walks home, he gets lost in a reverie and loses his way, which is actually pleasant, especially in a storm, when nothing looks the same. He notices more this way and is better able to understand the vastness and wonder of Nature. Very often, however, he realizes when he arrives that he did not remember the walk because he was in such deep reverie.

Thoreau was put in jail one day (and released the next) when he went to town for failure to pay taxes,

"I did not pay a tax to, or recognize the authority of, the state which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle at the door of its senate-house. I had gone down to the woods for other purposes. But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run 'amok' against society; but I preferred that society should run 'amok' against me, it being the desperate party." The Village, pg. 156

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