Transcendentalism And How Writers In The Past Have Used It In Many Different Ways English Essay

1246 words - 5 pages

Transcendentalism, a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual over the material, emphasizes the volatile conditions of knowledge and experience and the unknowable character of ultimate reality. Transcendentalism can also be interpreted as divine and intellectual expression of American democracy where everyone has an equal opportunity of experiencing and expressing God themselves, no matter their wealth, status, or political affiliation. This movement grew as a reaction against the eighteenth-century rationalism. Combining romantic, idealistic, mystical, and individualistic beliefs, this movement focused more on thought rather than an actual defined philosophy. Transcendentalist writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville and Faulkner all turn to nature as a role model to observe how to improve the quality of life by living simply, rejecting materialism, and refraining from passing judgment on others. Following nature’s example provides an opportunity for man to discover its authentic identity, separate from the identity it acquires from the conventions of particular society.
Throughout the nineteenth-century, an influential literary moment occurred, transcendentalism expressed prominence on the wonder of nature and its deep connection to the divine. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau exist as two prominent figures in the transcendentalist movement that expressed their passions while valuing nature and its complex beauty. Emerson, a leading intellectual and artistic figure upon his day, plays a crucial role in Thoreau’s life and his works. Thoreau, not content to simply reflect and write about the new way of thinking, has a desire to live the transcendental life to its fullest potential. In the essays “Walden” and “Self-Reliance”, both Thoreau and Emerson properly argue for individuality and personal expression in different ways. Through “Walden”, Thoreau attempts to tell his readers something of their own condition and in what ways they can improve it. Observing widespread anxiety and the dissatisfaction with modern civilized life, Thoreau writes for “The mass of men” who live “lives of quiet desperation.” Similarly, in “Self-Reliance”, Emerson requests for individuals to speak out their minds and to resist societal conformity. Emerson states that “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages,” and presses readers to “speak their latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense.” Thoreau’s calls to action support Emerson’s ideas of embracing individual thought and how priceless it can be to understand and detect the ideas you consume. After reading through both Emerson and Thoreau’s works, many similarities and few differences arise. Emerson and Thoreau both love nature and a simplistic lifestyle. These two prominent figures both reside at Walden Pond and believe that individuals need to search for...

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