Walden: Character Profiles

Character Profiles
Because this work centres on Thoreau’s life at Walden Pond over a period of two years, and is concerned for the most part with the natural world around him, there is little time spent on his interaction with other people. It follows, then, that there are few ‘characters’ to analyse and those that are referred to are not characterized in the tradition of a novel. They are mentioned rather than depicted.

Cato Ingraham
This is one of the people who formerly lived in the woods and used to be a slave of Duncan Ingraham of Concord village.

Henry Thoreau
This is by default the most significant character as, of course, this the condensed version of his two-year stay at Walden. He gives a detailed and philosophical first-person narrative of his stay there as well as his thoughts on wider issues such as the impact of commerce on everyday life.

Hugh Quoil
Hugh Quoil was an Irishman and the last inhabitant of the woods before Thoreau lived there. There was a rumor that he had fought at Waterloo and Thoreau compares his exile to the woods with Napoleon’s exile to St Helena.

John Field
Thoreau took shelter from a storm at his home, which was a hut that was half a mile from the road. John and his family were poor Irish immigrants that came to the United States for a better life, but they remained in poverty.

The Canadian
This is man is not named but is given relatively extensive treatment when compared to the other characters in this work. He is described as being ‘cast in the coarsest mould’ as he had a ‘stout but sluggish body’, and Thoreau praises him for his simplicity: ‘A more simple and natural man it would be hard to find.’

Zilpha is referred to only briefly as another former inhabitant of the woods (before her home was burned down by English soldiers).