Critical Analysis of “Language”
In “Language” of Emerson’s Nature, Emerson writes on the language that man uses and talks of how the words that one uses are inaccurate to what one is describing. Emerson believes that the languages used today do not appropriately depict the items that are being described. His belief is that all things in nature have a natural self and language tries to create a true representation of that natural thing via words and phrases, but Emerson states that because man is corrupt and uses these words and phrases to lie and deceive people, the words and phrases become tainted and therefore, untrue—the very opposite of what language was originally designed for.
The first thing Emerson does in this chapter is establish three points of language. “1. Words are signs of natural facts. 2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts. 3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.” (Emerson, 1118).
In the first point, Emerson implies that words are honest and true with nature because they are factual. That is, all of our words in the English language derive from a word or phrase that quite literally means what is being discussed. Some examples he gives are, “right originally means straight, wrong means twisted.” (Emerson, 1118). When someone says that something is right or wrong, you associate it with being straight or twisted, but you do so without even noticing. For instance, the “straight and narrow” is a phrase that is linked with doing what is correct or right, so society today still associate words with a more direct and meaningful, natural definition.
The second point of language that Emerson addresses is that some natural truths symbolize spiritual truths, that is, the essence of something can be described though a natural being. One example given is that, “a lamb is innocence” (Emerson, 1118). While many people do associate snakes as deceitful, and foxes as sly, that is not the only association that can be given...
Bibliography: Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Nature.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 7th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. 1118-1122.
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