Course Hero. "Walden Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Oct. 2016. Web. 4 Oct. 2022. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walden/>.
Course Hero. (2016, October 13). Walden Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walden/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Walden Study Guide." October 13, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walden/.
Course Hero, "Walden Study Guide," October 13, 2016, accessed October 4, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walden/.
The pond is clearly the book's primary symbol because Thoreau named the book for it. Walden Pond is like a shrine to Thoreau. He builds his cabin on the shore to be as close to the water as possible, and spends as much time as he can in or on the water.
Because he is a literal man, Thoreau does not believe the legend that the pond is bottomless. In fact, he ascertains its depth for himself. Conveniently the pond turns out to be exceptionally deep—"conveniently" because Thoreau is so determined to experience life on a deeper level than other people. A shallow pond would be a less attractive source of inspiration!
The unusual purity of Walden Pond's water—which Thoreau mentions many times—also makes it a useful symbol: "Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open," says Thoreau in "Higher Laws." Thoreau is seriously interested in living an ever-purer life. Walden Pond has no visible source or outlet: "By living thus reserved and austere, like a hermit in the woods," Thoreau says, the pond has acquired "wonderful purity," suggesting that solitude aids purity.
Because it is so pure, the pond is usually flooded with light—perfect for a Transcendentalist writer seeking enlightenment: "Of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity." The fact that he calls the pond a "character" reveals the extent to which Thoreau identifies with this deep, pure body of water.
During the spring thaw, the sticky mud surrounding the pond reveals a symbolic web pattern, which is echoed throughout nature in the veins of leaves and the roots of trees. For Thoreau, the web illustrates interrelationships. The mud is not an isolated geological feature. It is connected through time and history to the animals and plants it supports in life and houses in death. In its ability to stimulate such reflection, Thoreau illustrates that the mud, too, is tied to the philosophical and spiritual truths of humanity. In this way, the earth becomes "living poetry."
In winter the pond develops a "frozen skin" that has a commercial value. In this way, the pond's ice comes to symbolize the tension between nature and its exploitation by humans. The icemen arrive as a social microcosm to cut up the pond and haul away its icy treasure. Yet Thoreau remarks that only 25 percent of the 10,000 tons of ice harvested arrives at its destination. Though it initially appears the humans have the upper hand in this conflict with nature, the melting process returns the pond's water to the water cycle and thus eventually to the pond. Because Thoreau is able to trust in nature's regeneration process, he is able to turn his poet's eye to the mystical blue of the ice as a means for spiritual introspection.