Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

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In the mid-1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson created a belief called Transcendentalism. He wrote the essay, “Self Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau, another Transcendentalist wrote an essay called, “Walden.” Both works of literature focus on the Transcendentalism belief. In “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne reveals both Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism through the attitudes of the characters. Therefore, “The Minister’s Black Veil” can be compared and contrasted with both “Self Reliance” and “Walden.”

During the 1830s and 1840s, Transcendentalism was influenced mostly by Ralph Waldo Emerson. When the idea was first created, Emerson and a small group of people got together to discuss philosophy, religion, and literature. This group of people became known as the Transcendental Club. The Transcendentalists believe in the essential unity of all creation, the innate goodness of man, and the supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths. They also stress the importance of nature and that all forms of being, God, nature, and humanity, are spiritually united through a shared universal soul.

In contrast, the idea of Anti-Transcendentalism was first established by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Anti-Transcendentalism focused on the limitations and potential destructiveness of the human spirit rather than its possibilities. They also believe that people have the potential to do bad things in their life and that God should be on a higher level than society.

In the short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the minister, Parson Hooper, is a well-respected and peaceful man, however his congregation becomes eerie when he wears a black veil over his face. The reverend is never bothered to know that people see him as a different person. “Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman” (275). Similarly, in “Self-Reliance,” Emerson...
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