A Reflection

Wants Verse Needs


“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman


There are few true necessities in life. In class we are reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. In the first chapter, “Economy,” Thoreau explains his opinions on the differences between wants and needs. Thoreau tries to separate the necessities of everyday life, and the wants that people value too much. Related to every day necessities he stated this in the “clothing” reading, “I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.“ His perspective is very down to earth because he wrote this book while living on only the bare necessities of life.


It is hard to get a true perspective of needs from someone who has everything so Thoreau separated himself from the rest of the world to understand the true necessities of life. One of the true necessities of life for all of man kind is shelter which everybody knows. Thoreau explains one of the things wrong with shelter in this world in this quote, 


“In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. (Thoreau)”  


Although this is a very long quote it really explains the problem with shelter we have. It says that only about one half of families in the world own their own shelter. Think about that. Then think about that all the animals in the world have their own shelters which they live in for free. It shows that humans are too greedy and don’t really care about the good of all humanity, but their own personal gain. Shelter is one of the main necessities of life so I agree with Thoreau in the fact that us, as humans, don’t have our priorities set straight. He says that we focus on the wrong things in life, taking necessities for granted and only caring about wants. So yes, I completely agree with Thoreau and his ideals. I believe that his time in isolation has helped him see clearly in the ways of the world.


I think that Thoreau’s way of writing and ideas have really opened my eyes to a more advanced type of literature, and new ideals to ponder. It is undeniable that his way of crafting sentences is unmatched, but I love his ability to put hidden meanings in sentences, things to make the reader think about what the sentence means. Although I have thought about the true necessities of life, Thoreaus writing has made me think deeper and more thoroughly then I ever have before (No pun intended). I think this book so far has had a very good impact on me. It has made me think about things I have never thought about before, it has given me the ability to understand a more complex style of writing, and it has allowed me to uncover hidden meanings and life lessons within his sentences. 


Thoreau has an old style of complex writing but being a ninth grader and learning how to understand his writing style has taught me much. The way he talks about the necessities of life in this book so far has really made me understand his way of thinking.