Essay about Thoreau And Transcendentalism

Essay about Thoreau And Transcendentalism

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What if the world focused and was run on conformity and consistency? What I Lived and What I Lived For written by Henry David Thoreau and Self-Reliance written by Ralph Waldo Emerson are both pieces of literature discussing transcendentalism and the tenet of conformity being undesirable compared to nonconformity. Emerson’s piece describes how part of person’s freedom and identity are given up when they become part of a group. Mankind had grown less inquisitive and therefore does not question the world around them. Thoreau feels that people should live with only essentials away from society. Distance from society will allow people to awaken, think for themselves, and encourage growth for their intellect. Emerson and Thoreau use compare and contrast, cause and effect, and description to develop the idea that conformity diminishes an individual’s power to succeed, but Thoreau is able to portray this idea more effectively than Emerson because Emerson uses general ideas of conformity and does not give as much personal insight as Thoreau.
Emerson uses compare and contrast while Thoreau uses cause and effect to introduce each of their themes of nonconformity through societal opinion and personal goals. Using compare and contrast, Emerson references things that are loved and things that are not loved to express society’s opinion; that conformity is highly preferred over nonconformity. He writes, “It loved not realities and creators, but names and customs,” (Emerson, 2). Rather than supporting untraditional occurrences and exploration, society favors conformity and those that follow the expected regime. While the interpretation of society’s opinion is true, it does not mean that society favoring conformity is in the best interest of the pe...


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...stency but, Thoreau uses personal insight to determine that one cannot be great by conforming. The same theme is then developed by Emerson when describing what a man is and then Thoreau goes on to explain through a metaphor that conformity is a predetermined path. Lastly, diminishing conformity is concluded when Thoreau explains that consistency affects everyone's day to day lives and Emerson ends his piece by explaining how consistency in society brings about no progress. If the world were entirely focused on consistency, then no technological, environmental, political, or social progress would come about. Nonconformity allows people to branch out and explore their own interests and play to their strengths rather than those of society. Without nonconformity, it is likely no advancements would ever be made and all the world’s problems would remain just that, problems.

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