Emerson, Ralph Waldo.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably the most influential figure in American literary history. He was responsible for shaping the literary style and vision of the American Romantic Period. Nowadays, when we think of Transcendentalism we think immediately of Emerson. We think of Emerson because transcendental thought is most clearly expressed in his writings.

As with all great writers, the events in Emerson's life have greatly influenced his thoughts. These events tell us why he believes the way he does. He was born on May 25, 1803 to a Unitarian minister (Johnson 132). His father, the Reverend William Emerson, was chaplain of the senate state. Being the son of a minister, Emerson lived a very sheltered childhood in Boston. His education began before he was three (Johnson 133). He began his education in a nursery school and worked his ay up the stairs of education. Emerson's father died in 1811 and left him to take care of his mother and family (Unger 7).

A year later, he began studying at the Boston Latin School. He studied there for the next five years until he made his final step up to a higher education. In 1817, Emerson entered Harvard College as the "President's messenger" (Johnson 133). Having this role at the college allowed him to have free room and board, making college much cheaper for his mother. Although he wasn't particularly interested in the subject, due to a great deal of pressure, he decided to study ministry. Throughout his four years of education at Harvard College, his aunt Mary Moody had convinced him to write poetry on subjects such as the victory of 1812. Because of his aunt's influence, Emerson became very interested in writing and began writing many essays on his beliefs. During Emerson's last years at Harvard...