;In Walden we see that Thoreau is a practical dreamer. Unlike many other transcendentalists who only propose metaphysical ideas, Thoreau aims at putting ideas into action. Through his narration and description in Walden, he seems to suggest that building idealistic dreams high in the air is no great hardship when solid foundations are placed underneath them. While noticing that the American society was undergoing a tremendous transformation, Thoreau wishes to bring his people back to the right track by guiding them to see truth in life. Thus, this thesis will also investigate his ideas of reforms and see how they can make a difference to people’s lives by leading them closer to truth.
To begin with, chapter one will give a brief introduction to my thesis. Chapter two will examine Thoreau’s ideas of cultivation of the self from three aspects: living a simple life, getting close to nature, and taking action. Through the cultivation of the self, individuals will be refreshed and thus rediscover themselves. Albeit the cultivation of the self promotes individuality, it aims at pursuing the well-being of the whole society. Therefore, Thoreau’s ideas of reforming society will be scrutinized in chapter three. I will investigate his reforming ideas of society from three angles: education, culture, and liberty. Noticing that society has fallen apart due to the loss of humanity, Thoreau’s ideas of social reforms aim at bringing humanity back to society. In my chapter four, I will discuss Thoreau’s ideal of building a better world. To Thoreau, the world can be a better place only when people are awakened and can see truth. When people can penetrate the changes they see in life and find eternity in them, they will get rid of mundane thinking and do what is really good for both the individual and society. The concluding chapter will restate his concerns about society and review his ideas of reforms discussed in previous chapters. By studying Walden, we can see that Thoreau, as a social reformer, encourages people to pursue big dreams in a practical way.