Elements of American Romanticism
Henry David Thoreau pens his book Walden during a revolutionary period of time known as American Romanticism. The literary movement of American Romanticism began roughly between the years of 1830 and 1860. It is believed to be a chapter of time in which those who had been dissatisfied by the Age of Reason were revolting through works of literature. All elements of Romanticism are in sharp, abrupt contrast to those types of ideas such as empirical observation and rationality. An online article describes American Romanticism in the following manner, “They celebrated imagination/intuition versus reason/calculation, spontaneity versus control, subjectivity and metaphysical musing versus objective fact, revolutionary energy versus tradition, individualism versus social conformity, democracy versus monarchy, and so on” (Strickland). In 1845 during that period of time, Thoreau decides to spend two years of his life in an experiment with Mother Nature in a cabin at Walden Pond. He tells exquisite tales of life in natural surroundings in his book, Walden, through a most primitive organic style. Walden is a key work of American Romanticism because of its embedded ideas of solitude, individualism, pantheism and intuition.
Romanticism seeks nature as a means for obtaining knowledge, and while Thoreau heavily spends his time in the woods and around the pond by himself, he inevitably feels a sense of solitude. Solitude is not necessarily loneliness or intentional isolation of oneself. It is merely an acknowledgment of the fact that he or she is alone. Thoreau has his own thoughts about solitude in which he writes:
In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since. Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me. (88-89)
He acknowledges his distance from humanity in the preceding passage, yet he does not feel lonely because Nature upholds him. Additionally, he clearly states that the living organisms around him are what he dwells upon for his emotional support. Thus, this is proving that solitude was a common theme of Romantic writing where he has demonstrated from the previous excerpt.
Romantics commonly incorporate ideas of individualism in their writings because they value what’s best for a person in his or her day to day life over what’s best for a large group of people such as a country or a nation. An online article refutes the following about individualism, “Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value…it sees society as a collection of...