The Roles Of Ralph Waldo Emerson And Henry David Thoreau

822 Words 4 Pages
American Transcendentalism was a great movement in the middle of the nineteenth century (Campbell). Two of the most influential, transcendentalist writers of this era is Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Emerson and Thoreau expressed similar meanings in their stories. Emerson’s The American Scholar explains the functions, virtues, and roles of an individual. Thoreau’s Walden is a continuation of Emerson’s The American Scholar, in that Thoreau gives a deeper explanation of the functions, virtues, and roles of the individual. Both of these stories, however, express slightly different views on religion and government, money and power, but they both express Light Romanticism in experimental qualities. Emerson and Thoreau also present …show more content…
Emerson describes many functions of the individual: farmer, planter, priest, thinker (Emerson 244, 250). What the audience is expected to understand about these functions is that the individual is not a farmer, planter, priest, etc., the individual is man on a farm, man thinking, man planting (Emerson 244, 250). Although man on a farm, man planting, man thinking are functions described by Emerson, thinking is the most important function. “The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness, - he has always the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary,” (Emerson 250). Thinking is the main function for the individual. The individual must think before he or she acts. Living is what allows the individual to think in order to act. When Man begins to act, virtues begin to develop in the individual. Emerson describes …show more content…
The Scholar has functions to perform, but along with those functions, the Scholar also develops virtues from those functions. Virtues are qualities that are morally good. According to Emerson, if the Scholar thinks before he acts, then his actions should be virtuous, morally good. “Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth,” (Emerson 248). Emerson also describes work as a virtue. “There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labor is every where welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgements and modes of action,” (Emerson 250-51). When an individual performs his work efficiently and without question, then the individual’s work is virtuous. Emerson ties the functions and virtues of an individual together in that there cannot be one without the other. Although the functions performed by the individual and the virtues developed by the individual cannot exist without each other, they can both cause the individual to have either a positive or negative role in society.

Related Documents