Henry David Thoreau was kind of a dick

So I’ve been reading Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, which is pretty amusing, and he seems like a very interesting fellow, but the further I get the more convinced I am that I would not want to have dinner with him. The book is a long celebration of the fact that he is more awesomely frugal than anyone around him, and a meditation on the virtues of aggressive frugality in the name of spiritual and physical health. And in that way it’s a good and interesting read. But he also spends at least as much casting aspersions on all of the idiots in every direction who worry about things like wainscotting, or think that windows should have curtains on them, or who like to eat food that tastes good. He’s right, of course, about the amount of rank waste in men’s lives, and he would surely have apolexy if he could see the levels of unnecessary consumption going on today, but his utter lack of sympathy for those he describes strikes me as a blind spot, at the least, and quite possibly a moral failing. Not that I think he would come within a mile of agreeing with me, because it’s pretty clear that HDT is pleased with himself for having thought through things ten times better than those around him, so I’m guessing a contrary idea would be a tough sell.

All in all, it’s a good read, and it rambles right along like a museum tour led by a crotchety old docent, but I don’t think I’ll be moving into the woods any time soon.

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