Life without Principle is one of the most remarkable short works by an American author and critic Henry David Thoreau, created in 1863. Thoreau’s works had unbelievable influence on many people of different age and social status: political leaders found his works educative and naturalistic and ordinary people found his ideas so personal and effective. This is why it was not a surprise that Thoreau’s Life without Principle was recognized within a short period of time as a work that offered a kind of program to be taken by every righteous person.

The author makes a successful attempt to discuss a variety of themes in this work: real life examples, personal experience and thoughts, and facts, which are evident in our life. Though it is hard to define one concrete thesis of Thoreau’s work, the point that this thesis is 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 Thoreau’s ideas and attempts; this idea is considered to be the main fact that is proved throughout the whole text by means of examples, which fulfill our everyday life.


Thoreau is the author, who does not want to stop on one concrete idea and develop it during the whole paper. This is why what he chooses for his Life without Principle is really effective and captivating. He presents one general theme 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 the victims of personal desires. He raises one of the most provocative 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 properly defines his positions in 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 in order to help, open reader’s eyes, and show how wrong or useless human attempts can be. His purpose is to describe 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 pursues the desire to show how illusive human demands can be, admitting that “the ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward” (Thoreau 8). The target audience of the essay cannot be restricted to certain frames. One of the most peculiar features of Life without Principle is that there is no concretization concerning who are intended to be the reader of this essay.

It may be a poor debtor who “goes to church to take an account of stock” or men, who are “so well employed”, or a “gold-digger” with his passion to gambling, etc (Thoreau 13, 10, 19). In other words, this essay may become rather 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” (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 interesting and helpful for him/her.

The uniqueness of this essay is author’s impartiality to the reader and unbelievable focus on the topic. The purpose of the essay is achieved by means of 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 desirable effect that is expected from the paper. When the reader accepts author’s point of view and finds these ideas not only appropriate for this life but also effective to change something, the main purpose of any essay is achieved.

In this case, Thoreau’s purpose is to show how considerable and influential the power of money can be, and how people limit their opportunities. It may happen that one debtor reads this essay and comprehends that his troubles and his challenges means nothing in comparison to his spiritual life and his personal attitude to life. This is why it is possible to say that author’s choice to use real life examples and personal experience in this work is completely justified; and even more, it becomes a helpful means to achieve the necessary purpose and convict the reader. The effectiveness of the essay lies deep into author’s demands.

I truly 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 possible to rely upon. He not only teaches the reader but also explain why these lessons are important. 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)


Life without Principle is one of the memorable writings, offered by Henry Thoreau. His ideas are touching and educative, helpful and frustrating, amazing and sometimes evident.

Due to such doubtful nature, many readers can find this work interesting in accordance with their personal demands. Everyone knows that he/she lives in the world that is too much 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 routine 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 personal product, money.

Works Cited

Thoreau, Henry, D. Life without Principle.

16 February 2010.


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