Transcendentalism in the works of Thoreau, Hawthorne and Emerson

Essay by volleyballa2328 January 2005

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Transcendentalism was an expressionistic movement that occurred in the United States during the 1800's. It emphasized the importance of viewing nature through an un-material perspective where the human divinity is a fundamental value. In essence it emphasized the indefinable and the unknown. The entire objective of this movement and its members were to influence change by emphasizing the importance of belief in a supreme world, a world beyond that of the senses. To transcendentalists, "human beings were truly divine because they were part of nature, itself the essence of divinity." Life's focus was finding oneself through nature. Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau together significantly objected to many of society's restrictions on the individual and through their writing all hoped to influence change.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the great transcendentalists of his time. He most famous pieces were Nature and Self-Reliance.

His works were ideal pieces of transcendentalist literature. In Nature he stresses the importance of understanding truth through nature. He writes, "...the air is a cordial of incredible virtue". This quote is a perfect example of the transcendentalist mind set. To Emerson a man views nature as beautiful "as his own nature", man and nature are one and God is in nature. However in his essay Self-Reliance Emerson writes "to believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all me - that is genius." Intuition was also an issue that Emerson stressed. A man should rely on themselves but also take head to the warnings of nature and head the advise of nature. According to Emerson "We are now men and must accept the same transcendent destiny", that destiny was to fulfill the work of God.

One of the...