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Transcendentalist Writers: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, And Walt Whitman

1922 words - 8 pages

All young people dream of breaking away from their parents and building their own lives. They yearn to follow their dreams, no matter how wild and crazy, and eventually hope to piece together their true selves. When Christopher McCandless graduated from college and took to the road with no word to his family, he might have appeared to be just another regular kid with overly strong ambitions and an uncontrolled, insatiable thirst for freedom. However, McCandless was more than an average young man who was trying to escape his parents’ control and live recklessly on his own devices. When Chris left his established life to journey across the continent and live off the land, he was actually following the wise and spiritual ways set forth by the first Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Chris McCandless changed his identity to Alexander Supertramp, a character who was true, pure, and cleansed of the artificial grime of the modern world. He travelled the country not on a whim, but rather on a quest for knowledge and fulfillment. His voyage eventually led him to his ultimate challenge on the Alaskan frontier, where he passed away. Despite his death, Alex was not a failure. He successfully crafted a lifestyle that applied both his strongest beliefs and the beliefs of others before him. Christopher McCandless’s self-forged identity, Alexander Supertramp, was a true, honorable Transcendentalist because his journey encompassed the ideas and beliefs concerning society, the self, higher truths, nature, life, and death that were established by the original Transcendentalist writers.

A strong passion for nature is the most famous common theme of Transcendentalism, and it is also the most basic. Unlike Transcendentalism’s deep, contemplative, intangible ideologies that mainly address the spiritual plain, a love for the natural world is the most straightforward fundamental within the philosophy. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous writer and the acclaimed father of Transcendentalism, professed in one of his works (appropriately titled Nature), “In the woods, we return to reason in faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes) which nature cannot repair” (388). Emerson, like the other original Transcendentalists, believed that nature was an underappreciated gem that, when embraced, would open the eyes of all who entered it. Ann Woodlief of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s English Department clarified, “The major premise of transcendental eco-wisdom is that connection with nature is essential for a person’s intellectual, aesthetic, and moral health and growth” (Woodlief). Disconnecting from the mindless buzz of the modern world and reuniting with the earth was the only way humans could realize the true meaning of life and become wiser individuals. Alex’s life parallelled Transcendentalism because although he was also full of complex...

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