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Transcendentalism in Thoreaus Walden - Essay Example

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The Transcendentalist Movement was a reaction against eighteenth century rationalism and manifestation of the general humanitarian trend of nineteenth century thought. The movement was based on a fundamental belief in the unity of the world and God. The soul of each individual was thought to be identical with the world - a microcosm of the world itself…
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Transcendentalism in Thoreaus Walden
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Download file to see previous pages Surrounded by forest, it was and remains a peaceful town, close enough to Boston's lectures, book-stores, and colleges to be intensely cultivated, but far away enough to be serene. Concord was the first rural artist's colony, and the first place to offer a spiritual and cultural alternative to American materialism. It was a place of high-minded conversation and simple living (Emerson and Thoreau both had vegetable gardens). Emerson, who moved to Concord in 1834, and Thoreau are most closely associated with the town, but the locale also attracted Hawthorne, Fuller, Alcott and Channing. The transcendental club was loosely organized in 1836. Unlike many European groups, the Transcendentalists never issued a manifesto. They insisted on individual differences - on the unique view point of the individual. American writers often saw themselves as lonely explorers outside society and convention.
It is the writing of Thoreau and of Emerson that has been the most enduring product of American transcendentalism. Thoreau and Emerson's friendship blossomed during the autumn after Thoreau returned home from college in 1837. "Emerson was then at the height of his intellectual and creative powers. His philosophy of striving and self-reliance strongly attracted Thoreau, who had the good fortune to be granted the society of America's leading progressive thinker just as he began his career." (Cafaro, Philip. Thoreau's Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue.) Thoreau accepted Emerson as his mentor and began to keep a journal on his suggestion. Emerson criticized Thoreau's articles and sent them across to different editors, with mixed reviews. He provided the site for Thoreau's experiments at Walden Pond. While Emerson was disseminating his mature philosophy, Thoreau was still trying to formulate his own message, acquire the necessary skills to write creatively and gain a foothold so that he could at least make his ends meet. Given Thoreau's extreme individualism and his sense of independence, this relationship of dependence was bound to give rise to discontent. The two men were two different personalities and differed greatly in temperament. Emerson was active socially whereas Thoreau preferred to his solitary mode. Emerson owned some property and was a family man, which made him regard the social norms with some respect. Thoreau on the other hand, was explicitly critical of what he considered hypocrisy, pettiness, and herd mentality.
Quite naturally, these personality clashes gave way to grave intellectual differences: "one of their first recorded quarrels occurred during an afternoon walk when Thoreau, noting the proliferation of fences along the road, declared that he would not abide by them, as he had as much right to "God's earth" as anyone. Emerson responded with a defense of the institution of private property. Harmon smith suggests that Emerson's subsequent essay, "The Protest", was directed towards Thoreau. In it, Emerson warns aspiring youths of the dangers of letting their frustrations at society's shortcomings consume their time and talents." (Cafaro, Philip. Thoreau's Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue.) Gradually, when Thoreau began to think on his own, their relationship was further strained. "Emerson was a generous open-minded man, but as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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