Our Life Is Frittered Away By Detail Essays

Another interpretation of Thoreau's words is one that pertains to many in contemporary times who fritter their lives away in details and lose sight of the larger and more important issues and relationships in life. For, at the beginning of the paragraph before this quoted line of Thoreau's, he writes,

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes;...

Another interpretation of Thoreau's words is one that pertains to many in contemporary times who fritter their lives away in details and lose sight of the larger and more important issues and relationships in life. For, at the beginning of the paragraph before this quoted line of Thoreau's, he writes,

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness.

Thoreau observes that men are like ants as they rush from spot to spot, unaware of the world around them, fixed merely on  small, meaningless details.  They are caught up with the trite and quotidian happenings and lose sight of the more universal which is meaningful in life. By simplifying their lives and eliminating superfluous details, people will grasp what is truly meaningful: family, friends, love, respect, integrity. 

Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded,... life would be like a fairy tale....Children who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men....

Thoreau points to the destructive power of petty fears and petty pleasures; they cloud men's thinking and true enjoyment of the life of the soul. He urges people to look more deeply at life and recognize and nurture what is truly meaningful. Men should cultivate such virtues as the love of Nature and truth--what is "sublime and noble." Further, Thoreau urges men to spend their days as deliberately as Nature and deal in realities, not trivialities. Arguably, in Walden, Thoreau satirizes the institutions of man and his materialism which lead him to "fritter" his life away like the ants who lay "clout upon clout."

Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet and philosopher who is best known as the author of the book, ‘Walden’. His essay on ‘Civil Disobedience’ caught the attention of people and influenced the political thoughts and actions of notable figures such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Other than being a renowned and famous writer, Thoreau served as an abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor and historian. In his lifetime, Thoreau contributed invariably writing essays, articles, journals, poetry and books. Thoreau wrote primarily on natural history and philosophy, anticipating the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, surviving historical change or natural decay and advocating the abandonment of waste and illusion. Today, Thoreau is regarded as one of the foremost American writers, both for the modern clarity of his prose style and the prescience of his views on nature and politics. His literary style was unique and distinctive. It interweaved close observation of nature, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and attention to practical detail. Same is also visible in his quotes that convey a powerful message in limited words. Explore this section and find some of the best known quotes by Henry David Thoreau.  

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