Summary – Chapter Three ‘Reading’
The beginning of this chapter expounds the virtues of learning Latin and Greek to read the Classics. Thoreau describes the written word as ‘the choicest of relics’ and says there is ‘no wonder that Alexander carried the Iliad with him on his expeditions in a precious casket’. Books are described as an ‘inheritance’ of ‘generations and nations’ and refers to works by Homer, Æschyles and Virgil as incomparable.
He thinks we should read ‘the best that is in literature’ and questions the Concord culture. He goes as far to say that there is little difference between those that are illiterate and those who ‘read only what is for children and feeble intellects’ and argues that our education should not end when we become adults. This chapter ends with the suggestion of the idea of ‘noble villages of men’ and sees this as a way of bridging ignorance.
Analysis – Chapter Three
This chapter focuses on reading and Thoreau uses this opportunity to criticize formal education again and follows up his point made in Chapter One (where he wonders about the usefulness of the education he received).
Although he highlights his worries about the efficacy of education, he also demonstrates here that he holds the concept of education in high regard. His praise for the Classics and the citing of what he calls a Hindu story in Chapter Two are both evidence that he appreciates the knowledge that has been passed down over the centuries and makes the case for the continued study of such texts. This demonstrates a point of view that will not be restricted by parochialism, despite the narrowness of the life he leads on Walden Pond.