Transcendentalism: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

Superior Essays
Transcendentalism As America changes as a country, the thoughts of her authors change as well. By the Mid-1800s a new philosophy had emerged, Transcendentalism. While Transcendentalism was not widely accepted by the masses, leaving authors to be mocked and ridiculed, some of the authors of this movement writings have withstood the test of time. The works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are still read, analyzed, and appreciated more than 150 years after they were penned, leaving us to appreciate how revolutionary the Transcendentalist movement truly was. In this response we will analyze the broad scope of Transcendentalism and the authors who made it timeless. Transcendentalism encompasses many …show more content…
In his enthusiasm of calling for men to think for themselves, become educated, to fight for government reform he has been unable to fully do that for himself and seems envious of those who are in a position to do so. Thoreau’s writing The Plea for Captain John Brown we can feel the fervent envy, “[Brown] in teaching us how to die, [has] at the same time taught us how to live.” (1168). In this piece he is arguing about the importance of sticking to your beliefs even if your life is on the line. It is the ultimate call to action that just because Brown was seen as wrong by the manipulative government that his actions were still right and we should remember him as the heroic man of conviction that he was, “I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for his life, but for his character – his immortal life” …show more content…
Whitman responded to Emerson’s call for American poets who would reject tradition and embrace the transcendentalist movement with their poetry. We see many of the same themes of nature and individualism in his poetry that we have read about in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. In One’s-Self I Sing Whitman writes about the, “simple separate person” (1329) who still has to deal with living by the laws of the land. I felt this poem was an optimistic call for mankind to believe in itself, and not to judge a book by its cover because that distracts from the whole of an individual. While we live in an exciting new time, we still have to obey the laws, even if that means pushing them to their limits. In Whitman’s poem Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry we can see his observance and connection with nature with the numerous mentions throughout the poem. It is my interpretation of this poem that Whitman was highlighting the idea that we are wrapped in our own busy existence, not taking time to focus on the individual or nature, and do not think about those were there before us or will be there after us (referring to Emerson’s influences of knowledge from the past), and that this poem was an optimistic reminder that we are not alone in the good times or the bad through the repetition of: “Others will.”, “I too…”. The final poem we read of Whitman’s was Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking which again shows the

Related Documents

  • Superior Essays

    Poetry is typically about either the poet and their thoughts and actions, or about one character’s journey through the poem and their thoughts and actions. However, Whitman makes this poem about both himself and the reader. Obviously the poem is about Whitman’s beliefs—just look at the title. But in the poem, he does something so simple yet revolutionary for poetry that also emphasizes a balance of individualism and community, private and public thoughts: he directly addresses the reader. For example, in lines 1207-1208, “Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you, / You must travel it for…

    • 1385 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Larkin feels that poetry must be rational and delightful and therefore opposes Dylan Thomas’s use of too much expression and excessive romantic surrealism. Surrealistic poetry of the 1940s especially of Dylan Thomas appears odd and irrational to Larkin. The poetic sensibility of Larkin and other Movement poets was as per the likes and dislikes of the audience of the post-War period. Larkin’s “Plymouth” is about his continuing struggle to find a distinctive manner. The poem betrays the influence of Dylan Thomas and of Yeats: ‘The hands that chose them rust upon a stick”, (Larkin, CP 25) but in its closing lines looks forward to a poetry that, by implication, would demand the rejection of such influences: Let my hands find such symbols that can…

    • 924 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Despite the poem being written in free verse, the speaker is able to establish a flow to the piece by creating a “dream-like” atmosphere through his use of tone and sound. The poem does not uphold to established patterns of stanza, rhyme, or meter. This poem is driven by the speakers emotions and personal thoughts. The poem takes a step back and examines life in a new light; a light in which violence is not justified and life is lived to the…

    • 1299 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Credo Poem Analysis

    • 722 Words
    • 3 Pages

    The poem “Credo” by Andrew Zawacki, while this is a self-reflecting piece, he also shows his naturist interpretation of the world. You can understand his deep feeling for the subject, that this isn’t some piece he wrote over a protracted time, this was a short surge of emotion that impeccably captured his thoughts and state of mind. He makes it very clear what his message is, even if it is not seen at face value. The poem had many dark tones, they were needed to show the true implication of the writing. The author is talking to himself, him from the past.…

    • 722 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He is defending the artistic integrity of literature, which he believes should stand on its own merit detached from historical events. Only literature of this approach will help men prevail. That being said, a work that encompasses the human experience in a manner that possesses merit detached from historical context may make a political or social statement without sacrificing artistic integrity. Falkner uses his speech as a device for his outlook to be heard by the young writers of his day, speaking to them in a manner that mimics thought and deeply appeals to emotion. The implications of writing derived from prominent themes of the present day without consideration of the human experience is that such writing will be inapplicable for future generations whether, written in Faulkner’s time or the present day.…

    • 961 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    During the 1800's, transcendentalism grew with the help of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman. They expressed their beliefs through many different types of writing including poems, essays and books. Very few people understood transcendentalism due to it complexity. Transcendentalism was an American literary, political and philosophical movement. Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman were important transcendentalists.…

    • 429 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Whitman 's main goal was to spread a distinct style of literature that contained an "American Touch" and attempted to persuade many other authors and writers to leave trailing behind the old world’s literacy and establish a more American Democratic style. Modern time impacts left behind by Walt Whitman was the distinct styles of poetry that don’t abide by the regular norms such as rhyme or pattern. Whitman developed a shapeless style of poetry that works concretely as long as the author of the work knows how to develop his…

    • 1362 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    His writings are still around and are still read today. Between Walden, Civil Disobedience and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack, Thoreau had a wide variety of writings that are now considered classics. This cultural hero was arguably one of the most influential of all the Transcendentalist thinkers because he dared to go against what was expected and open up a world of possibilities for people years to…

    • 1090 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Emerson also lives with nature and God, and he does not live for the past or the future, nor does he compare himself to others, he only relies on his own thoughts and beliefs. Thoreau lives his life with no regrets because he is living the life he has imagined by relying on himself with the help of nature. Emerson and Thoreau want everyone to remember that it is great to be misunderstood and to make a new beaten track. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau were self reliant, transcendentalist leaders who made a new path instead of going in a path that was already…

    • 1044 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau The Transcendentalist movement developed in the end of the 1820s, gaining momentum throughout the 1830s through the literary efforts of Americans Emerson and Thoreau (Packer 11). The historical movement emerged from many men and women who were discontented with the limitations of traditional religion. Seeing religion’s many philosophic trappings which inhibited the growth of authentic character, these forerunners sought their inspiration through the teacher of nature. As conceptions of religion cannot be separated from the expression of politics and culture throughout history, transcendentalists enabled their writings to advocate for real liberty in one’s inner being as well as one’s state. This movement would become a definitive expression of the passion of the American spirit.…

    • 1555 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays