Walden Chapter 10


English 11 H

Period 1

In this chapter from Walden, Henry David Thoreau introduces another character to the short list. This character is named John Field and is an Irish farmer who lives in poverty with his wife and several children. Thoreau often tries to convince John to lead a simpler life much like him, but John does not believe in the feasibility of this idea. John Field measured his life upon the luxuries that he could afford, and he believed that his life was better in America because he could get coffee, meat and butter. However, to get these luxuries he had to work extra hard almost like a machine. Thoreau on the other hand, lives without these luxuries, but his life requires much less work, is much more leisurely and ultimately much happier. The description of John Field serves to further prove Thoreau’s point that living without luxuries can be fulfilling and is often better than a life occupied by a pointless scramble up the social ladder.

While it is true that less work offers up fewer rewards, less work also leads to a less complicated life, which is a reward in itself. Thus, I think that giving up a couple of luxuries, such as meat, coffee and butter as Thoreau did, in order to have a simpler, more carefree life, is a great bargain. John Field is too ignorant and entrenched in the commonly held views of society to realize this. When I grow up I hope to have a mentality more like that of Thoreau than Field, so that I will be able to lead a more fulfilling life. Field finds a source of temporary happiness in superficial luxuries but Thoreau finds lasting contentment in life and in himself. His vision isn’t obstructed by frivolous matters.