Walden Chapter 5


3/24/04


English 11 H


Period 1


In this chapter, Henry David Thoreau differentiates between solitude and loneliness. He declares that “we are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers” (108). In this quote, Thoreau claims that even when people are among others, they can still feel loneliness, because loneliness isn’t a lack of physical interaction, but rather, emotional and spiritual interaction. Most friend ships are superficial to the point that neither party receives any emotional fulfillment from it. Thus, people are lonely when they have no one to truly connect to, and no amount of shallow, physical relationships can mitigate that feeling of loneliness. Solitude, however, according to Thoreau, is completely different from loneliness in that solitude is someone is preoccupied with life and does not have to time for other people. When people work, they cannot feel loneliness, because their concentration is placed onto their work and they don’t bother to consider that they are alone.


This talk reminds me of Babbitt from the Sinclair Lewis novel. Babbitt had only superficial relationships with his colleagues and even his only family, so he never felt emotionally satisfied, and he always thought that he was alone in the world, despite being constantly surrounded by people. He could find few people that he could actually talk to and reveal his own emotions without inhibition. The society in which he lived, 1920’s America, had such strict social standards on the middle class that it stifled all true signs of intimacy and produced artificial and forced relationships. Thus, Babbitt, just as Thoreau described, felt lonely because he lacked any fulfilling relationships.