We're living in a material world and I am a material girl... or boy.
Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler), The Wedding Singer
Materials, materials, materials. That’s what Section 5, “The Experiment” is all about. Thoreau writes about the experiences he had leading up to buying the materials to build his house, and when he bought the materials themselves. I believe that Thoreau wrote this part of the book not to amuse us, but to give us an idea of what every single step in building his house was. Buying the materials just so happened to be one of the more boring steps, in my opinion. Thoreau didn’t seem to do a whole lot in this chapter except talk about the people that he encountered. It would be fine to talk about people, but Thoreau didn’t really evolve their characters much. The first was Mrs. C, who just showed up out of the blue. It almost felt like we needed some type of transition from the story about borrowing the axe from his friend to meeting Mrs. C.
This section was definitely my least favorite of the ones I’ve read so far. It left me wanting more detail about certain aspects, such as the characters. What I really did like, though, was the list of all the materials at the end of the section. This did develop Thoreau’s character and gave me a better image in my head of what it would’ve been like to meet him in person. A quote that I believe is one of the best in the section, and further describes Thoreau’s intellectual thinking style is:
There is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged? But alas! We do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveler with their travelling and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?
I believe that if Thoreau had put more detail into his character development and some better transitions from start to finish, this chapter would read better. Since he didn’t, I’d have to say that this is my least favorite of the sections so far.