Right now I am reading a chapter in Walden. There are two instances where I seem to be missing the mark because the summaries I read online (ie Sparknotes) do not corroborate the interpretation I'm getting. Here we go:

1) "However, I let him keep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; or rather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow."

-------Does this mean Thoreau gave away his ten cents, seeds and materials or did he keep them? It says "still had my ten cents..." but I don't know who has them. Also, it says, "I retained the landscape" which suggests to me that he abandoned everything else.

2) "I have thus surveyed the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live. In imagination I have bought all the farms in succession, for all were to be bought, and I knew their price. I walked over each farmer's premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind; even put a higher price on it- took everything but a deed of it-took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk- cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on. This experience entitled me to be regarded as a sort of real-estate broker by my friends."-----

The summaries I've read suggest that Thoreau actually attempted to buy the homes without any actual intention of paying for them. Personally, I think Thoreau just imagined this all in his mind.

1 Answer 1

  1. The phrase “still had my ten cents” appears in the first sentence of the first excerpt — a long, rambling sentence that begins “However, I” and appears to have “I” as its subject throughout.  The only real confusion comes from the phrase “as he was not a rich man”, but that’s a subordinate clause, and so “he” should not be taken to be the subject that goes with the following verbs.

  2. I believe that your interpretation is correct.  Early in this excerpt, we see “In imagination …”, and later on this is reinforced with “… in my mind”, so I don’t understand why anybody would believe that the author actually attempted to buy the homes.

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