Henry David Thoreau And Transcendentalism

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Henry David Thoreau was a renowned American essayist, poet, and philosopher. He was a simple man who built his life around basic truths (Manzari 1). Ralph Waldo Emerson deeply impacted Thoreau’s viewpoints and philosophies, specifically by introducing him to the Transcendentalists movement. There seems to be no single ideology or set of ideas that entirely characterized Thoreau’s thoughts, but principles encompassing Transcendentalism come closest (Harding and Meyer 122). Spending time in nature and in solitude gave Thoreau an entirely new perspective on life. In fact, his doctrines regarding nature and the impact of the individual on society have transformed realms of political, social and literary history. Politically and socially, Thoreau’s…show more content…
His health was deteriorating since the 1860s and worsened when he took a trip to the woods to count tree rings where he caught a cold. Sadly, he passed away on May 6, 1862. Emerson even composed and recited his eulogy. Thoreau’s literary contributions will never be forgotten and he himself seemingly did not want his works to become a distant memory to society. When he was ill, Thoreau knew he was not going to live much longer. He planned to have his remaining works published when he passed. His sister, Sophia, arranged to have his remaining works published in The Atlantic Monthly. Some posthumous essays put forth in The Atlantic Monthly included, “Wild Apples,” “Walking,” and “Life without Principle.” These proved to be some of his more mature Transcendentalist works. Thoreau undoubtedly wanted to leave a “lasting footprint” on society (Cawley…show more content…
To him, reality and nature symbolized this higher truth, and, hence, universal laws are perceived in his work (Manzari 3). One specific theme involved the simultaneous relationship between the individual and government. “Civil Disobedience” embodied the ideal that citizens within the scope of government should do what they personally think is right and not what government dictates. Thoreau’s works constantly confronted the injustices perpetuated by the government (Harding and Meyer 135). Explicitly, “Civil Disobedience” discussed the topic of slavery and how Thoreau was morally opposed to the idea in its entirety. He paid homage to the fact that expediency does not take priority over justice. Meaning, the concept of slavery was all too convenient because nobody thought of an intellectual alternative. Thoreau believed in the notion of equality through his writings of, “…my government which is the slave’s government also” (Thoreau 3). The moral of his writings incorporated the ideal that no matter what the costs may be, justice must advance in society because, as humans, we are “ethically and morally obligated” to do the right thing (Neufeldt and Smith 70). He also focused on the contradictory platform of so-called democracy and ultimately the only option to refute such governmental flaws was to become civilly disobedient. On the other hand, in Walden,

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