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Henry David Thoreau And The Transcendentalist Movement

1584 words - 6 pages

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly needed to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail” (The). This quote describes the attitude that Thoreau had toward life. He wanted to make life as simple as it could be, which he achieved throughout his lifetime. Henry David Thoreau was part of the Transcendentalist movement, which occurred roughly in the years of 1836 to 1860. Transcendentalism was an important literary and philosophical movement that began as a reform in the Unitarian church. Transcendentalist believed that all humans were one with nature and that there was no evil. It was believed by transcendentalist that if a person were connected to the natural world, they could become Christ-like (American). There were many factors that played a role in the reasons for Thoreau's writings, such as his odd personality and the way he chose to live his life.

Henry David Thoreau’s writings were influenced by the way he lived his life. He was considered by many people to be different because he wanted to be on his own most of the time. (Olson). Due to this, he did not interact well with others in social situations, which often made people angry with him (Olson). He also never had a steady profession, never married, and was always moving from home to home (Olson). All of this was connected to Thoreau’s impulse to reach simplicity. Thoreau went to Harvard University, where he studied to be a teacher. When he graduated, he started a journal that contained his thoughts and feelings. His journal later became the basis for many of his works, including his most famous work Walden (Henry David Thoreau). In Thoreau’s writings nature and freedom were the two factors that went into his writing (Witherell). Thoreau’s writings challenged people to reevaluate their lives because of the beliefs and thoughts portrayed in them. Thoreau took a more subtle approach by using wisdom and quirky comments to make people consciously think about their own lives, instead of directly telling one how to live. Thoreau also made people question the government, which was portrayed in his work “Civil Disobedience.” He says that government is misleading and unnecessary. He believes that the government wants to control the people and bring them down. Thoreau was an avid Transcendentalist, and even though he was criticized for it he spread the ideas of transcendentalism in his writings (Olson). He did not receive the fame he has now when he was alive (Olson). Henry struggled getting his work published. When the very few were published, he did not receive payment for them (Olson). His most famous work, Walden, was also not popular until after he passed away, but is now considered one...

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