Emerson and Thoreau Comparison

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau Pages: 3 (982 words) Published: November 17, 2013
Emerson and Thoreau
When prominent literary theorists come to mind, many think of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. These men are both brilliant and share many of the same pleasures, such as a love of their surroundings and the importance of nature. They both shared views towards an alternate government and lived the lives of individualistic, laid back non-conformists. Thoreau and Emerson were among the elite writers in the Transcendentalist movement. Both men found the need for change in the American system but took slightly different philosophical routes. Transcendentalism began amidst the middle of the nineteenth century as a religious concept rooted in the ideas of American democracy. A group of Boston ministers, Emerson being one, decided that the Unitarian Church had become too conservative; in response they adopted a new religious philosophy that focused on inherent wisdom in the soul over doctrine. Emerson began publishing works that became essential to the movement, Nature, “The American Scholar” and “Self Reliance.” His works, such as other transcendentalist works, focused on the divinity of nature. Emerson writes in Nature, “Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?” For Emerson, nature is a direct line to God, and its “meaning” is directly linked to God’s “meaning.” Emerson created his own definition of God, varying from the church he’d formerly been a part of. He is regarded as central to the transcendentalist movement although he strongly encouraged others to think for themselves. Many have interpreted Emerson’s transparent eyeball as a key symbol for transcendentalism, its ability to see the divine and “transcend” the soul. Nature also animates intangible philosophies such as reason, understanding, truth, love, and freedom. Thoreau embraced nature, he completely isolated himself at Walden Pond. In Walden he states, “I went to the woods because I wished to live...


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