To those living in it, Antebellum society must have felt fundamentally unstable. Massive advances in technology had brought on market changes that not only caused urbanization of the once almost wholly-rural nation, but also created a volatile boom-and-bust economy that was constantly rocked by panics. In such a rapidly changing world, it is no wonder that authors like Henry David Thoreau, Lydia Marie Child, and Nathaniel Hawthorne used their literature to explore the challenges of Industrial life. Their work falls under the catch-all category of romance, which refers to several subgenres of literature that value nature and personal experience over empiricism. One such subgenre is Transcendentalism, which encompasses the beliefs held by Thoreau and Child that blame the isolation and discontent of the individual on nineteenth century society, and stress a return to nature and personal revelation. Another is Hawthorne’s own brand of romance, which most notably favors exploring causes and effects without judgment over the didacticism common in Transcendentalist writing, and therefore doesn’t assign blame for social issues, merely explores their many possible causes. Ultimately, Hawthorne’s more objective romance proves to offer more insight than Transcendentalist ideas about what problems are the results of Antebellum society, and their proposed solutions, and offer a more complete understanding of the issues that pestered nineteenth century America.
Thoreau’s Walden is Transcendentalist didacticism at its finest. Thoreau writes not only as an account of his time in solitude, but a how-to guide for cleansing the soul and reviving the spirit through unfettered communion with nature and a return to simpler values. Thoreau sees natur...
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...ongoing struggles in all human societies, and by taking this less-restrictive perspective, allowed his readers to consider less restricted solutions to the problems they were facing. Ultimately, Hawthornian romance’s more open approach to societal issues allowed it to gain greater insight into the problems of the day, and allowed readers to come to their own solutions.
Child, Lydia Marie. "Letter from New-York." The Norton Anthology of American
Literature.. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2012. 190-210. Print.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Scarlet Letter." The Norton Anthology of American
Literature.. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2012. 450-594. Print.
Thoreau, Henry David. "Walden." The Norton Anthology of American
Literature.. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2012. 981-1155. Print.