Walden Chapter 17


4/19/04


English 11 H


Period 1


In this chapter of Walden, Thoreau describes how Walden Pond transitions from a cold white winter into a fresh new spring. He describes the ice melting in the pond and the snow thawing out. “Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other but breaks in pieces” (247). With this quote, Thoreau explains that subtlety will prevail over brute force since Thaw will eventually melt down all the ice, but Thor will only succeed in breaking it into smaller pieces so that ice still remains. This is reflected in Thoreau’s stance of civil disobedience when he wants to resist authority. Instead of violently protesting, he allows himself to be arrested and he spends the night in jail.


This quote can be directly related to one of Aesop’s fables where the sun and the wind are having a competition on who can get an overcoat off an old man. The wind blew mercilessly but the harder it blew, the tighter the man held to his overcoat. The sun though, shined its bright rays, and the man eventually shed his overcoat because of the heat. This reflects Thoreau’s belief that subtlety is much more effect and effective in solving problems than brute force and heavy handed methods. The wind accomplished nothing in blowing hard, just as Thor would have accomplished nothing in smashing the ice with his hammer. The sun, however, took the more restrained approach and like Thaw, it succeeded in getting the job done quickly and effectively. Both Aesop and Thoreau were thinking along the same lines and reached the same conclusion in the best way to address a problem.