Transcendentalism Thoreau

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau Pages: 6 (1096 words) Published: April 24, 2015
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let’s have class outside today!” Kids look forward to hearing this statement frequently in the springtime each school year; but why? It has been proven that children as well as adults learn more and at a higher level than normal when in a natural environment. Humans tend to observe and associate learned material with the natural surroundings. These people also relax and are readily available to intake more information as well as discover new facts about themselves. This is essentially the basis of transcendentalism. Transcendentalist writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, turn to nature as a role model to show people how to improve the quality of their lives by living simply, making the best of what they have, and refraining from passing judgment on others. By following nature’s example, people discover that being true to oneself is the key to living as nature does. Within Emerson’s life time, he had been married twice with four children- his first passed at the age of five from scarlet fever. He had no children with his first wife, Ellen, who died from tuberculosis. When Ellen died, Emerson became “emotionally and spiritually distraught” (Self Reliance 13). Because of her death, in particular, Emerson resigned from the clergy. (“Ralph Waldo Emerson”). He spent his time researching reason and meanings of life. Emerson started writing for leisure. “Emerson's first book, Nature (1836), is perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism, the belief that everything in our world—even a drop of dew—is a microcosm of the universe” (“Ralph Waldo Emerson”). Simplifying one’s life to just a few activities at a time allows one to fully experience and appreciate each event and therefore get the most out of it. Emerson wrote for pleasure, in turn creating his own occupation by continuing his interests. He believed that appreciation for life was key, both human life and action as well as nature. In Emerson’s Nature, he describes the life of which he lives, and the importance of using nature as an essential element for existence (The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson 2). The man kept a journal- jotting down every thought and bright idea that popped into his head. Eventually, he influenced a good friend, Henry David Thoreau, to also keep a journal for his life. Emerson said his journal kept his fear from spreading from his mind to his body (Self Reliance 6).

Virtues in the life of Emerson held only wisdom: “The virtue in most is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” (Self Reliance 14). Emerson boelieved that if people truly believed in themselves, conformity would be non-existent because people would not want to be the same. He thought that one should fully give himself to nature and the will of God; for the only temptations would be those of the changing laws of nature (The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson 29).

Emerson undoubtedly understood that the natural outdoors held a certain open-air classroom feeling. The feeling of an outside setting brings focus and stability to preparation for learning. Emerson repeated in his personal narratives, “No man can learn what he has not preparation for learning, however near to his eyes is the object.” (The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson 96).

When Emerson officially developed into a transcendentalist in 1832, he consistently portrayed the optimist. He did not believe there was evil in the world, which sometimes put other writers, such as Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr., into a doubting judgment of Emerson and his thoughts on transcendentalism (Self Reliance). Even though some other well- known American authors did not always agree or support Emerson’s ideas, he wound up existing in American History and culture on the norm.

Emerson became known as the central figure of his literary and...

Cited: Emerson, Ralph Waldo, and Brooks Atkinson. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, and Gene Dekovic. Self Reliance. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1975. Print.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. .
“Ralph Waldo Emerson.” POETS.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. .
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