The Power of Place #2
Individual Sonnet

The Fallacy of Philanthropy Literary Analysis

Thoreau’s Views & Charity

By Rylan Chandler and Andy Barton


“If you should ever be betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not worth knowing” — Henry David Thoreau

    Supporting philanthropy does not make a good person unless you give yourself with your money. In the chapter The Fallacy of Philanthropy, by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau argues that “If you give money, spend yourself with it, and do not merely abandon it to them.” 

    Mindlessly donating money to the poor is does not make a good man. For there are many men who can do that; however, there are not many men who will give themselves; who will give their time; who will give their effort; who will their care. I would rather receive no help than help from a man who doesn’t care. If it’s just another check from a rich man who doesn’t even notice the money he’s giving away, I don’t want it. Thoreau agrees saying: 

His goodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of which he is unconscious. [Walden, 42]

Thoreau believes that it is not enough to donate money, but to give yourself with it. He argues that if you wish to become a good man by supporting philanthropy, you must give your life and time instead of solely your money, which is why he declines to donate to philanthropy even though he has been asked about it repeatedly. Mindlessly donating to charity does not make you a good man.