Compare And Contrast The Enlightenment And Transcendentalist Thought By Thomas Paine

1491 Words 6 Pages
In the 1700’s to the early 1820’s, America is in a disposition of “I think”; however, towards the end of the 1820’s to the late 1830’s, the disposition of Americans change to “I am”. These movements are known as the Enlightenment and Transcendentalist periods. Both pose distinctive outlooks on how the American people should dwell within a society. Despite the differences in their ideology, a mutual understanding can be found when discussing the chastity of one’s mind. The Enlightenment intellectual, Thomas Paine, conveys the effect of prostituting the chastity of one’s mind, and the Transcendentalist philosopher, Henry Thoreau, stresses the importance of preserving the chastity of the mind. Although, one expresses the consequences of violating …show more content…
They both use an intense vocabulary to bluntly convey their feelings towards chastity. Paine, in his prose, uses “corrupted and prostituted” (2), to articulate a negative feeling towards those who exploit their minds for insignificant advantages. Thoreau follows the same example of expression; “We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children”(5). His use of the phrase “innocent and ingenuous children” reveals a greater concern for the preservation. The main thing that both authors are trying to accentuate to their readers can be summed up as, one’s confirmation in his contentment in his own thoughts and desires. Paine and Thoreau are both attempting to convey the thought of independence. In their opinions, society should be a complement to one’s convictions. Paine communicates his support for this statement by establishing that society is not qualified to give its judgment on what is an acceptable behavior. He says, “It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, …. that mental lying has produced in society”(2). Here he indicates that society’s perspective has been corrupted by immorality; therefore, verifying his belief that society’s opinion is insufficient. Thoreau also supports this claim; however, he uses a different technique to disclose his conviction. He says, “I hesitate to burden my attention with those which are insignificant, which only a divine mind could illustrate”(4). Thoreau is saying that not only is society not adequate, but also, society does not possess the status or position that such an opinion requires. According to him, “only a divine mind”, has the right to speak out on what is an acceptable behavior. Although both have presented their outlooks in comparable styles, a contrast still stands. Both deem chastity of the mind important, but the way each of them conveys their

Related Documents