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Transcendentalism

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Transcendentalism blossomed during the 1800s with the help of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson. They were Transcendentalists who expressed their beliefs through writings from poems to essays and they believed that “the individual was at the center of the universe” (Prentice Hall 384). The idea of Transcendentalism is complex and for this reason, only a number of people understood it. Emerson, Thoreau, and Dickinson, were one of the many people who were Transcendentalist; these writers went out of their way in society to represent their beliefs.

Emerson’s beliefs were mainly on “the human mind [because it] was the most important force in the universe” (Prentice Hall 384). In “Nature”, Emerson viewed nature as “[the] plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, [and] a perennial festival dressed” (Emerson 388). God made nature and some view it as just trees, leaves, grass, etc., but Emerson saw the true beauty in nature. He saw it as if lights, tinsel, ornaments, etc. already decorated it. In addition, Emerson compared himself to “a transparent eyeball” and “[he] see[‘s] all; the currents of the Universal Being” (Emerson 389). He can see everything and everyone around the world. In “Self-Reliance”, Emerson conveys that one must follow for what they believe in. They have to accept themselves “for better [or] for worse” (Emerson 391). Emerson states, “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best” (Emerson 391). He implies that one must love their job and loves to work hard because at the end they will be happy. In addition, Emerson viewed the human soul as part of an “‘Over-Soul,’ a universal spirit to which all beings returned after death” (Prentice Hall 384). The Over-Soul is similar to reincarnation, where after one person dies, that person will come back to life, but in a different form, like, an animal, an insect, or a human. Emerson’s works define being an American because they gave him the freedom to write what he wanted. Also, his works define being a Transcendentalist because they include descriptions of the deep sense of nature, human soul, and individualism.

Thoreau, the protégé of Emerson, went through tough experiences to understand Transcendentalism and to be in “harmony with nature” (Prentice Hall 385). In Walden, Thoreau spends two years living in a cottage, which he made, next to Walden Pond in the woods.
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