Walden was first published as Life in the Woods (Thoreau, 2004, iv) and the title itself is an accurate reflection of Thoreau’s setting for this non-fiction narrative on Transcendentalism. Thoreau’s work Walden focuses on his hiatus from mainstream society in which he took up residence on a plot of land just outside of Concord, Massachusetts. The land was owned by Thoreau’s mentor and friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau resided on the plot, near Walden Pond for just over two years and during that time he constructed a cabin and while he buys food, he supplements his budget by growing some of his food. Thoreau explains the setting for Walden in his opening chapter as follows:
“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had build myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I live there two years and two months.” (Thoreau, 2004, 1)
The setting is not more than a prelude to simplicity. It is within this setting that Thoreau’s rhetoric thrives. The quasi-isolationist background and the simple lifestyle is thought provoking. Not only is Thoreau driven to contemplate, his reader is as well. Bickman puts Walden’s setting in its proper rhetorical perspective:
“It embeds itself in the Western philosophical and religious tradition only to undermine its basic assumptions. And it engages all these complexities in the context of a plea for simplicity, simplicity. Its final wisdom is that there is no final wisdom, that all truths are mediate, volatile, and that what can be conveyed to a reader is not a teaching but an intensity of response to life.” (Bickman,1992, 121)
This rhetoric is exposed in the manner in which Thoreau spends his time in his rustic setting.