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Life without Principle Essay

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2020

Introduction: the Main Themes of Life without Principle

Life without Principle is one of the most remarkable short works by an American author and critic Henry David Thoreau. The essay was published in 1863, 15 years after the famous Civil Disobedience. In summary, Life without Principle and other Thoreau’s books influenced many people of different ages and social statuses. Political leaders found his works educative and used quotes from Life without Principle in their practice. Ordinary people, in their turn, found the message of the text very personal and compelling. That is why it was not a surprise that Thoreau’s essay was recognized as a work that offered a program to be taken by every righteous person. One can not reduce the summary of Life without Principle to one topic. It is rather a list of themes and thoughts illustrated by real-life examples. Through the latter, the character and personal experience of the writer are revealed.

Though it is hard to define one concrete thesis of Henry David Thoreau’s Life without Principle, the point that this thesis somehow connected to money and its power in the world is evident. “This world is a place of business” (Thoreau 4) is one of the leading phrases in Life without Principle that depicts a true nature of H.D.Thoreau’s ideas and attempts; this message of Life without Principle is considered to be the central fact that is proved throughout the whole text by means of examples, which fulfill our everyday life. In this essay, I make an analysis of Life without Principle.

Main Message of Life without Principle

Thoreau is the author who does not want to stop on one message and develop it during the whole paper. That is why what he chooses for his Life without Principles is compelling and captivating. He presents one major theme of Life without Principle, defining the world as the place of business and tries to prove the chosen position by a variety of examples.

He argues about the values and goals of people, who are eager to develop commerce and support the ideas of globalization without taking into consideration the fact that people themselves become victims of personal desires. He raises one of the most provocative analyzation questions that influence our lives considerably and tries to conclude whether all those costs, both financial and spiritual, are worthy of the profits.

The purpose of the essay is to show its reader the way of how money rules this world. From the very beginning, the author correctly defines his positions with respect to the reader and admits that he does not want to “talk about people a thousand miles off, but come as near home” as possible (Thoreau 2). Such concretization makes the reader believe that his purposes are pure and definite. He writes to help, open the reader’s eyes, and show how wrong or useless human attempts can be. This is the major theme of Life without Principle.

His purpose is to characterize the way how materialism and commercialism enslave American society, to show how the Good Life should look like, and to teach the reader to analyze personal attitude to lives, where money and prosperity may lose their powers and impact on people. He wants to show how elusive human demands can be, admitting that “the ways by which you may get the money almost without exception lead downward” (Henry David Thoreau, Life without Principle, 8).

The target audience of the essay cannot be framed. One of the most peculiar features of Life without Principle is that there is no concretization concerning who is intended to be the reader of this essay.

It may be an unfortunate debtor who “goes to church to take account of stock” or men, who are “so well employed,” or a “gold-digger” with his passion for gambling, etc. (Thoreau 13, 10, 19). In other words, this essay may become somewhat helpful for those who somehow deal with money, and these are all people in the world. The author admits that people become dependent on money unintentionally. The writer “cannot easily buy a blank-book to write thoughts in” because everything is “ruled for dollars and cents” (Henry David Thoreau 4).

Maybe, it is safe and more effective not to define the target audience at once and provide every reader with a chance to discover whether this source is exciting and helpful for him/her. The uniqueness of this essay is the author’s impartiality to the reader and unbelievable focus on the topic.

The purpose of the essay is achieved through a close connection to the reader’s demands. After reading this essay, a powerful desire to re-evaluate personal life and place in this world appears. In my opinion, this is the desired effect expected from the paper.

When the reader accepts the author’s point of view and finds that these ideas are appropriate for this life, the primary purpose of any essay is achieved. In Life without Principle, Thoreau’s goal is to show how considerable and influential the power of money can be, and how people limit their opportunities.

One debtor may read this essay and comprehends that his troubles and his challenges mean nothing in comparison to his spiritual life and his attitude to life. This is why it is possible to say that the author’s choice to use real-life examples and personal experience in this work is wholly justified. Even more, it becomes an effective means to achieve the essential purpose and convict the reader.

The effectiveness of the essay lies deep into the author’s demands. I genuinely believe that one of the first steps that need to be taken by any author is to believe in personal ideas and thoughts. The chosen argument is perfectly argued because the author uses as many different things as possible to show when his ideas are likely to rely upon. He not only teaches the reader but also explains why these lessons are essential. His powerful examples that are so close to our everyday routines cannot but impress the reader.

“If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer, but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” (Thoreau 6). This citation would probably be the best summary of Life without Principle.

Thoreau’s Life without Principle: Conclusion

This paper aimed to make an analysis of Life without Principle by Henry David Thoreau. This is one of the great writings offered by the author. The essay reviews the main idea of Life without Principle. Quotes and excerpts from the text are used as illustrations.The messages of the work by Thoreau are touching and educative, helpful and frustrating, amazing, and sometimes evident. Due to such doubtful nature, many readers can find the book interesting under their demands.

Everyone knows that he/she lives in a world that is too dependable on money because each citizen is a voluntary participant in this pursuit for profit. The effectiveness of the essay under discussion lies in its connection to everyday problems and human desires: people want to become smart and prudent in their activities, but their attention and passion make them so blind and stupid, and, what is more frustrating, dependent on their product, money.

Works Cited

Thoreau, Henry, D. Life without Principle. 2010. Web.

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"Life without Principle." IvyPanda, 21 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/life-without-principle-the-analysis-of-the-essay/.

1. IvyPanda. "Life without Principle." July 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/life-without-principle-the-analysis-of-the-essay/.


IvyPanda. "Life without Principle." July 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/life-without-principle-the-analysis-of-the-essay/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Life without Principle." July 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/life-without-principle-the-analysis-of-the-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Life without Principle'. 21 July.

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