“Society is commonly too cheap.”

Reading Walden, I think each student faces many moments where we wonder just who Thoreau is. Who in our lives could we compare him to? What archetype does he neatly fit in? At times, he seems very serene and sensible as he talks lovingly about nature. This is when I most enjoy his work. On the other end of the spectrum, though, he paints a picture of himself, almost unknowingly, as being completely beyond the pale, as in the following quote:

“We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.”

Choosing to compare people (and himself) to “musty cheese” would be enough to paint a picture of disdain for the stale and unoriginal without suggesting that societal rules are the only thing that keeps him from “open war” with dining mates. Open war! I also wouldn’t be thrilled to eat dinner with a man of so many judgements and such an oppositional identity to the times, but this phrasing makes me wonder just how nasty a disagreement with him could get.