Emerson And Thoreau Represent American Identity

1495 words - 6 pages

Compare and contrast the way in which Emerson and Thoreau represent American Identity.

“Identity means who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group which make them different from others,” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Third Edition). Every individual, group and country has their own identity which makes them different from others and it shows uniqueness of oneself. Reaction against the existing philosophy takes place when there is conflict in interest amongst the philosophers. It was from the late eighteenth century until mid nineteenth century that the philosophical and literary movement (Transcendental Movement) took place in America as a result of extreme rationalism of the enlightenment. “Transcendentalism, an idealist philosophical tendency among writers in and around Boston in the mid-19th century. Growing out of Christian Unitarianism in the 1830s under the influence of German and British Romanticism, transcendentalism affirmed Kant’s principle of intuitive knowledge not derived from the senses, while rejecting organized religion for an extremely individualistic celebration of the divinity in each human being” (Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms, p. 262). Thus, being the transcendentalists, both Emerson and Thoreau represented American Identity by influencing American to participate in the construction of American identity through their writings and actions. Therefore, this essay will compare and contrast the way in which Emerson and Thoreau represented American Identity; firstly it will argue Emerson’s influence on the American scholars to create American Identity through creation of an intellectual scholars, which was unique and free from European influence and secondly it will discuss the way in which Thoreau contributed to the creation of unique America with the belief in anti-consumerist by experimenting a simple and harmonious living with nature.
Being one of the leading transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged American authors to find their own style instead of imitating foreign (European) authors to construct the real identity of America. Emerson was born on 25th May, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was licensed as a minister in 1826 and officially appointed to the Unitarian church in 1829, but the sudden death of his first wife caused him to resign from the clergy. Emerson travelled to Europe, where he met with literary figures Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. When he returned home in 1833, he began to lecture on topics of spiritual experience and ethical living which touched on the personal nature of spirituality. “The American Scholar,” speech delivered in 1837 by Emerson motivated and influenced American writers to determine the real American culture and ask them to preserve the essence of the real American culture. Emerson states that, “Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that...

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