Thoreau and Transcendentalism

Topics: Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson Pages: 3 (1013 words) Published: April 25, 2013
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is an anthem to transcendentalism. Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature. Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly religion and politics—corrupted the purity of the individual. They believed that people were at their best when they were self-reliant. The central recurring theme that emerges in transcendentalism is a return to nature. Thoreau sets out for Walden Pond to observe, learn, and explore, indicative of his transcendentalist beliefs. In Walden, Thoreau explains his convictions of transcendentalism through his imagery of nature and appreciation of Nature’s sounds, especially in the climactic seventeenth chapter, “Spring”.

Thoreau discovers that one nice thing about living in the woods “was that [he] should have the leisure and opportunity to see the spring come in" (1138). He studies the ice melting and listens for birds, and by mid-March, he has heard a bluebird, song-sparrow, and red-wing. With the days passing, he also notes the depth of the ice on the pond. The ice is still a foot thick when he hears these birds. Living in a climate of four completely different seasons, and being away from the constant din of civilization (except for the railroad and church bells), makes this process of observing the introduction of Spring unique for Thoreau. Little delights Thoreau more than watching rivulets of sand and clay “burst” and “overflow” through the snow in banks, such as those on the bank by the railroad. Seeing “the various shades of the sand”, “singularly rich and agreeable (1139), makes him feel as though he "stood in the laboratory of the Artist who made the world and me" (1139). Thoreau sees these little streams replicated in tree leaves, blood vessels, and ice crystals. In this way, the "hillside illustrated the principle of all the operations of Nature" (1141). In this same section of “Spring”, Thoreau makes a...
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