Thoreau implies that wealth doesn't enhance a person's life, instead it ties a person down and restrains them from exploring themselves and the world. He claims that "most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life, are positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind" (432). Thoreau believes that attaining material wealth leads a man to think his life is for a good purpose and that he has fulfilled expectations. He wants men to not be satisfied with material wealth, but to strive for further accomplishments, the real accomplishments of life, such as writing or teaching. He also implies that the wealthiest class, people like us, actually represent the poorest class because we are tied down by our material possessions: "The seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters" (433). He says that these people are tied to their possessions and don't know what to do with all of them, or that they are forced to stick to something that doesn't bring them joy or meaning in life (such as a well-paying job). Thoreau uses extravagant language to remind us that material things enslave us, warning us not to become too attached to material possessions.
Thoreau claims the effects of a modernized society are more harmful then they are beneficial, desiring a society where people yearn to connect with themselves and nature, not one where the main focus is material wealth. He says that "while civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings," meaning that the large surplus of wealth pouring into the American society creates great things, but not necessarily intelligence or goodness of the heart. He detests the way that the more powerful the white man gets, the more he takes it into his head that he can controll other races: "Consider the physical condition of any savage race before it was degraded by contact with the civilized man.