Generations of critics and readers have chosen to emphasize the spiritual communion with Nature described by Thoreau and, of course, this was important to him. But Walden begins with trenchant critique of “progress.” He was attempting to extract himself from a society that he found deeply troubling. The idea of our own private Walden is less a desire to be “in nature” than a desperate longing to get out of this awful place. Read in this way, Walden is not primarily a record of the so-called “natural” world but a social commentary. Enter John Brown.