The Power of Place
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Thoreau’s Views on Charity

Why Thoreau Doesn’t Like Charity


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

-Henry David Thoreau

    Charity can be a great thing—or not a good think. 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 use it for the right ways, and he would not take the money if someone were to offer it to him.


    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 to say that he has tried it and doesn’t agree with what it stands for, He does not look down on the people who receive charity, but Thoreau would run away from it if charity was ever offered to him.


“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.”


    Charity is against Thoreau’s ideals. If he were to receive it, it would almost be a threat on his way of life. This is the first part of this section in the book where Thoreau describes his opposition to the subject by making it personal. This quote also 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. Charity is something that is meant to help out people in need, but, like when someone wins the lottery, it almost always leaves them in a worse position.


    We should worry about the good things and not dwell on other people misfortunes in this short life we live.


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