Thoreau, and Tax Evasion, Oh My!

One afternoon . . . I was seized and put into jail, because, as I have elsewhere related, I did not pay a tax to, or recognize the authority of, the state which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle at the door of its senate-house. . . . But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. (Thoreau 118)

This is the part in Walden where Thoreau makes a very direct comment on his time spent in jail due to tax evasion. This is funny to me because of the following,

Walden SUCKS. Thoreau was a deadbeat loser who wound up in jail for tax evasion, like Willie Nelson but LESS COOL. (@darcybear, on Twitter)

If you haven’t yet guessed, I have spent the better part of my night reading more of Walden, and I am actually happy to report to you that Thoreau is sucking less as I continue on. I don’t know if it’s because I’m starting to get used to his writing style, therefore I am understanding more of what he says, or just that what he’s saying is a less boring, but either way Walden sucks less today than it did yesterday. Which kind of amazes me because it is, after all, Wednesday.

I am infinitely amused, though, that Thoreau just thought he could go out into the woods and not pay his taxes. As the bit I quoted from continues, Thoreau seems to be equal parts annoyed and amused that he still had to pay his taxes while living simply (read: better than the rest of us!) in the woods. He does use the reference to his tax evasion and jail time to make a point about materialism and trust and conflict, though, that would be much more interesting & powerful if it were the first time he were making said point.

I know, you cared to hear about Walden.

It’s what you got, though. In other news, I am trying to set up a Wednesday night study block with some other grad student friends of mine and I have entirely too much reading to do. So now I’m going to get back to that reading (more Walden!, still) and leave you to ponder the coolness levels of Thoreau and Willie Nelson.


Thoreau, Henry David, William John. Rossi. Walden, Civil Disobedience, and Other Writings: Authoritative Texts, Journal, Reviews and Posthumous Assessments, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.



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