The Aims of American Transcendentalists.

Essay by Zdenka January 2006

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"The spirit of the time is in every form a protest against usage and a search for principles." (The Dial, Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Transcendentalism, an American cultural movement formed in the early 19th century in New England, showed many ambitions. In the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the two most famous and influential Transcendentalists, we may see that they tried to reform the society they were born into. They discussed numerous disquieting topics in their writings. However, Transcendentalists put the greatest emphasis on the areas of the moral, cultural, and political life of Americans in order to form a perfect social and political system - an ideal society.

Firstly, Transcendentalists emphasized that the American way of life in the early 19th century, after the eastern coast had been hit by a wave of Industrialization, was not right and needed to be changed. Emerson, in his essays Nature and Self-Reliance, tried to persuade the reader that people actually cannot be happy unless they follow their intuition.

People locked themselves in cities; the cold, golden cages of the material world; and were 'deafened' by the sound of money. They should have gotten rid of their obsession to be able to hear their intuition, the 'inner voice' of their soul telling them about its needs. Once they had satisfied their 'mental hunger', they were able to experience real happiness in harmony. Transcendentalists claimed that everything valuable could be found only in nature, and therefore people should have returned to it. In nature one would find the real beauty, truth, justice, and an unlimited source of inspiration. All of these were eternal and perfect. Due to this fact, they were more worthy than the passable, tangible belongings people would hoard by their materialistic way of life. "Still we live...