Ralph Waldo Emerson And Transcendentalism

1085 Words 5 Pages
Nature continually influences Americans; therefore, most American authors work to understand what nature means to them and the people. In the 1600s, Puritans like William Bradford believe nature – the woods – was an unknown filled with the Devil. Nature to them did not represent God in a positive manner, but instead God created the Devil’s territory to punish the fallen. This perspective changed by the 1800s as Enlightenment philosophy grew. Transcendentalist writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson began to conceive of nature as a conduit to God. Transcendentalists also believe everyone has access to virtue, unlike the Puritans who believe only the elect go to heaven. Bradford and Emerson would disagree with the importance of nature in the American …show more content…
Emerson values the perfection of nature and perceives nature to connect with God unlike how the Puritans shun nature. Emerson writes in his “Divinity School Address” (1838): “Whilst a man seeks good ends, he is strong by the whole strength of nature.” He believes spending time in nature gives man strength inside of taking away from man’s relationship with God like the Puritans and Bradford …show more content…
While Bradford fears nature, Emerson praises nature. Bradford believes only the few-- the elect -- receive virtue, and the church plays a vital role in man’s relationship with God, while Emerson believes everyone gets to experience virtue and the church is not a crucial part of a man’s relationship with God. Their different beliefs reflect what is happening on during their time periods. Bradford writes during a time when people still trust institutions and rely on the institutions to help them control their lives. Emerson lives and writes during a period when Americans begin to experience the negative effects of institutions through industrialization of manufacturing and the panic of banking runs. During the 1600s, people need to trust their institutions like the church and government for support as they establish communities in the New World; however, by the 1800s, they no longer need institutions and the people in charge of the institutions controlling all aspects of their life. Instead, people may determine what to believe themselves rather than always trusting what the church and its leaders tell

Related Documents