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Thoreau’s Views on Charity

Why Thoreau Dosen’t Like Charity

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“I have made some sacrifices to a sense of duty, and among others have sacrificed this pleasure also.”

—Thoreau

    Charity can be a great thing. In the chapter “Economy” in the book, Walden, Henry David Thoreau gives the reader his thinking on the flaws of charity. Thoreau describes his dislike for charity by saying that people don’t take advantage of it, and, he would try to get as far away from it if anyone were to try to offer him money. The people who do charitable work should focus more on the good of life then the bad.

 

    Thoreau begins by stating that he doesn’t participate in charity partly because the people who receive it don’t necessarily put it to the right causes. He then goes on by saying that he has tried it and it doesn’t agree with what he stands for, but he doesn’t look down upon the people who participate in it. He describes what he would do if he were to find out that he would be receiving charity:

 

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me- some of its virus mingled with my blood.”

—Thoreau

 

Thoreau states that charity is so against his ideals that if he were to receive it, it would almost be a threat on his life. This is the first part of this section in the book where Thoreau describes his opposition to the subject by making it personal. Another interesting part of this quote was when Thoreau suggests that charity is almost a virus that infects you. This reveals that he thinks that charity catches you by surprise and leaves you in a worse position than you were before. After this passage Thoreau goes on to tell people to stop worrying about the bad things in everyone’s lives and to focus on what is good about life in general.

 

    Thoreau’s attitude towards charity stays the same throughout the rest of the section but in the last paragraph he turns his focus to something different. He shows us how we should worry about the good things and not dwell on other people misfortunes in this short life we live. 

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