Untitled Poem By Jojo Solomon
Walden Literary Analysis Paragraph

Walden Literary Analysis Paragraph

Isaac Ostrow

Literary Analysis Paragraph

Walden: Economy4/13/18

True Charity

An explication of the theme of false philanthropy in Walden


“Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need, though it be your example which leaves them far behind.”

    Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life. In the chapter Economy by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau chastises so-called philanthropists who do not truly help those in need. In fact, Thoreau is so certain in the basis of his conviction that he nearly constantly emphasizes self-reliance in his own life throughout Economy. Pondering the poor Irish ice workers, one who has happened to fall through the ice specifically, Thoreau offered him garments and a place to warm the himself. When the ice worker strips down his many layers, Thoreau realizes the futility of what he’s done. In a critical moment, he professes:

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.” {Fitz’s Walden, The Fallacy of Philanthropy.}

    Even though Thoreau has gone on many a fruitless tirade on the charitable, he makes a good point; for it is better to teach a man to fish than catch him one. It is the fault of our society today that people can be so far abandoned that they are in need of basic food and shelter, but that is not where our resources go. They go to clothing the naked and feeding the hungry, and while it is important to console and retrieve those passed over by society, Thoreau’s inspiring quote urges us to attack the society that created these conditions, not the hungry. We must not help those in need without fixing what put them there in the first place.

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