The final chapter is a rich blend of contemporary references, aphorisms, instructions, rhetorical questions, and parables. If you find a particular Thoreauvian rhetorical stance tedious, just wait a few lines.
He begins with the theme of excursion. In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been on a journey—of a year at the Pond, a survey of what’s essential in life, examining how we live in and connect with the world, and what else? Where else has this journey of reading Walden taken you personally?
He tethers the theme with places appealing to the imagination of exploring and well-known navigators and explorers. Sir John Franklin had famously disappeared looking for the Northwest Passage. The “Symmes’ Hole” refers to a theory that the earth is hollow, with entry holes at the poles.
By now, you may suspect his conclusions about where we may explore.
He moves into what he learned by his “experiment,” writing some of the most quoted passages in the book. He plays with the word extravagant. Consider its Latin roots: extra: outside; vagari: to wander.
Kittlybenders refers to a game of running or skating over thin ice.
The first parable about Kouroo is generally held to be made up by Thoreau, with a nod to the Indian hero Kuru in the Mahabharata.
While the bug parable is certainly about emerging into light and life, the story does have its antecedents in contemporary stories about a type of beetle that can hatch and emerge from wood.
The concluding lines take us to dawn, awakening, and finally, “The Sun is but a morning star.”
This is a chapter to relish. To celebrate your own accomplishment—Thoreau is a challenging travel companion. He invites us to find our own way while telling us how to do it. Find your own favorite sentences. Mull over some of the aphorisms and instructions. Arrive at your own conclusions about what is essential, and how to live awake in the world.
Cramer, Jeffery. Walden, A Fully Annotated Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2004.
Harding, Walter. Walden, an Annotated Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1995.