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Clothes and Shelter

Andy Barton

Literary Reflection

Mr. Fitzsimmons Class

4/12/19

Debating my Life

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“In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”- Henry David Thoreau

    He is arguing my life, but should I defend? In english class, we are reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau; more specifically the lengthy chapter “Economy” in which Thoreau argues against the life of the rich man. In my life of luxury and privilege, my way of life hasn’t been challenged. Now, with three months left in my ninth grade year a man who has been dead for a hundred somewhat years, is challenging everything I have ever known; and the problem is that I think he’s right.

    In the chapter “Economy” in Walden, Thoreau argues for a life of simplicity. Thoreau first talks about what men actually need, necessities. Thoreau believes that the only necessities that we need in our life are, “Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel.”(“Economy” in Walden) As technology has advanced, what humans need to survive hasn’t. The juices from meat, the warmth from clothes, and the protection from shelter are the necessities in which all, including I, need. Thoreau then delves deeper into the necessities of clothes and shelter. Do we really need all the fancy clothes and the big houses? No. But these are things you’re judged in; if you do not have nice clothes, then your not a good man, if you don’t have a big house you haven’t have a successful life. It is natural for someone to be judged by their looks, but how someone dresses does not reflect their character. Thoreau states there are those who obsess over their image, believing that is what defines them:

The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns keeps how many shaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they may discover the particular figure which this generation requires today.”(“Economy” in Walden)

Character is defined by action, by how you carry yourself; not by the price tag on your shirt, the amount of dirt on your shoes, or the size of your house. The Penobscot Indians in Thoreau’s town lived in tents, so Thoreau asks why people live in bigger house. I believe that people in bigger houses as an reward/prize to themselves. We all have things to work for. In school it is honors or high honors, in hockey it is for that championship, in music it is for that performance. Most people work a job that don’t love everyday, and for what. For a better life, a bigger house. People want to be recognized for there success, but in real life there aren’t these awards every year where you walk up on stage in front people and shake Mr. Boonisar’s hand as he hands you your reward. So in replace of that award, people buy big houses, nice cars, and nice clothes. In a world of 7 billion people it is hard to be noticed, I guess people think that with nice clothes and a big house that will be easier. 

    Thoreau asks why have a big house, why have nice clothes? The other side of that argument is why not. This is what I found myself thinking while reading and writing. But that’s just my subconscious coming into defense. Then I thought about it. If you had the choice to pick to live in a smaller house or bigger house most people would chose to live in a bigger house. By no means is it necessary to live in a big house or to have nice clothes, but many things in life are necessary. It isn’t necessary to play Hockey, piano, video games; but these are all things I enjoy. Some people enjoy living in a big house and having nice clothes, some others enjoy living in a wooden cabin with nothing but a fire place. I personally see why people like both. 

    Thoreau argues that your clothes and shelter shouldn’t define who you are, yet he argues that people who enjoy fancy clothes and a big house are wrong; I disagree. Clothes and your house don’t define you. A man living in a cabin may be wiser than a man living in a mansion, or the man living in a mansion may be wiser than the man living in a cabin; either way if both enjoy the way they are living I say it doesn’t matter.

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