Transcendentalism And Individualism

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Transcendentalism is an ideology based on nonconformity and individualism with a strong focus on nature, self-realization, and social reform that emerged during the 1820-30s in North America. There were two key writings in the Transcendentalist movement: Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance”. “Civil Disobedience” was a writing that urged people to disregard any laws that they felt were innately unjust. “Self Reliance” was a literary piece that argued the value of nonconformity and individualism in the context of a homologous society. “Lean On Me” is a theatrical piece that follows the story of Joe Clark, a principal and former teacher, and his attempt to save Eastside High--a decrepit, declining high-school filled with disorder and crime. Transcendentalists would view Joe Clark’s conduct as a principal and his personality as very agreeable because of his use of civil disobedience, his non-conformist values, and his harsh disregard for popular opinion in his decisions. Joe Clark uses civil disobedience in his endeavors to improve Eastside High. In “Lean On Me”, there are several references to the vulnerability of the school, and in one instance, a recently expelled and disgruntled student breaks in and commits an act of violence against another student. In response, Joe Clark chains off every entrance in the school. This act is met with resistance by the community as it is viewed as a potential threat to the students’ safety in an emergency situation, yet Clark does not waver in his decision. This reveals Joe Clark’s strong belief in civil disobedience, as evidenced by Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”: “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time ... ... middle of paper ... ...scendentalists would commend greatly. In summation, Joe Clark’s practice of Transcendentalism is visible throughout “Lean On Me” and was essential to the success of his time as principal at Eastside High. His brave disregard of the accepted procedures and complacency of the leaderships before him reveal his individualist ideals, and his use of civil disobedience in favor of the students’ well-being and his steadfast attitude towards facing authority provides insight into Clark’s ability to stand up for what he believes is right. All aspects considered, many things can be learned from Emerson, Thoreau, and Clark respectively: be unwavering when standing up for what you believe is right, be considerate with everyone and see them for who they are and not just what they surround themselves with, and always be yourself and do as you please, regardless of popular opinion.
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