Compare And Contrast The Way In Which Emerson And Thoreau Represents American Identity

1524 words - 6 pages

In the year of 1600’s, the United States of America was being colonized by European countries especially by England. However, on 4th of July 1776 America became independent after having drafted the “Declaration of Independence” initiated by Thomas Jefferson [History of the United States, Wikipedia]. The difference between these two time periods shows that Britain had colonized America for about 176 years which ultimately led to prosper European cultures. Although America became an independent nation, European culture was still playing its role. Therefore, American writers namely Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau presented an idea about American Identity.
Emerson in The American Scholar and Thoreau in Walden represents the idea of American identity by connecting this concept with nature and individuality but Emerson presents his idea about American identity in an intelligent manner whereas Thoreau uses mockery to present his idea.

Emerson and Thoreau both have connected the idea of nature and individuality to represent an American identity. Well, the reason for both the writers having mentioned nature and individuality is because they are transcendentalist. Ralph Waldo Emerson had first published nonfiction essay called Nature which brought about a movement called the transcendentalism (1840-1855) [American Literature Timeline, Honors American Literature]. This movement influenced many writers amongst who is Henry David Thoreau. Transcendentalism believed in individuality being affected by politics and religion. They also believed in God being reflected in nature. Emerson and Thoreau both being transcendentalist had different ways of presenting their ideas about transcendentalism with regard to American identity.
Emerson had actually delivered The American Scholar as a speech to graduates of the Phi beta Kapa Society of Cambridge in 1837. Here he states his idea about “Man Thinking” and a “Mere Thinker” to represent American Identity. American Scholar distinguishes between the two types of man by giving top priority to scholars whom he describes on the basis of nature, books, action and duties. His descriptions about these scholars are regarding their thoughts and Emerson in The American Scholar believes that nature has great influence over the mind and helps a person visualize two different images or thoughts as one[1907].
Nature when looked at has no difference, the trees are equal, most of them are of same colors, they grow together and shed leaves together. Therefore, Emerson is defining unification of all fellow American citizens and to constrain away from European influences by implying the idea of an American identity using words such as “one” with “thoughts”.
In The American Scholar, a man who is a planter does not appreciate or gives credit to himself for the work he has done instead his instruments such as bushel and cart is all he cares about. Similarly, “the priest becomes a form; the attorney a statue book; the...

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