The Essence of Transcendentalism: Henry David Thoreau

Essay by TongueUntiedHigh School, 10th gradeA+, February 2004

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Transcendentalism may look like a complex concept, but its true meaning is quite a simple idea; the essence of Transcendentalism is non-conformity and individuality. Living simply and being one with nature, as well as being an individual and not conforming to society, are the main principles of the movement. Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, was an avid follower of this movement. He abode to the "rules" of Transcendentalism, such as leading a simple life, being a non-conformist and respecting nature. It was these simple guidelines that helped create a whole new style of poetry and prose. I agree with these principles and think it would be a novel idea to incorporate them into daily life and living.

Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden during the two months, two weeks and two days when he lived in a small cabin next to the Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He decided to write it as a memoir to his dead brother, John, who died of tetanus three years earlier.

In the two years Thoreau lived in his cabin, he kept detailed notes of the environment around him. It was these notes that gave him the basis to write Walden. Taken from 'Where I Lived and What I Lived For', Thoreau states that, "Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!" He believed the world should not be so complicated and detail-oriented; that we should take a step back and observe the simpler things in life. He gives advice, writing, "I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half...