Transcendentalism: Dead Poets Society and Self-Reliance

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Shaquan McDowell
Mrs. Hernandez
AP Lang
3/26/2013
Transcendentalism: Dead Poets Society and Self Reliance
Within his 1989 film, Dead Poets Society, director Peter Weir manages to reintroduce the once well-known philosophy of transcendentalism, into society once more. This philosophy was also once tackled and dissected by literary legend Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay “Self-Reliance”. It was in this essay that Emerson emphasized that in order for one to obtain a transcendentalism state of mind, optimism, self-reliance, and non-conformity must be held unto the up most importance. Peter Weir provides supports for this claim, through the inclusion of examples in his film, and together Emerson and Weir demonstrate the pure necessity of optimism, self-reliance, and non-conformity, in achieving the true though process of transcendentalism.

In order for complete comprehension as to the importance of the provided characteristics, in relation to transcendentalism, one must first grasp what transcendentalism itself is. As defined by dictionary.com, transcendentalism is “A 19th-century idealistic philosophical and social movement that taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity.” From this, one can extract the notion that transcendentalist need not the approval of society itself, but yet the approval of the divine, thus minimizing the necessity of conformity to society. In turn, transcendentalist are encouraged to evade conformity, to not conform, as in this way they express who they truly are, and thus display true goodness and acknowledgement of the divines work. Emerson supports this notion upon stating, “He who would gather immortal palms must not he hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it he goodness”. By stating this, he brings focus to the fact that before one can gain immortality, one must question the confines of what they have been instructed to do, and look and see if they themselves, being the creation of the divine, may...
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