Transcendentalism is a very important movement that occurred

Transcendentalism is a very important movement that occurred not only in literature but in life as well. The transcendentalist movement was a movement that was basically the thought of everyone having an over-soul. The over-soul is the thought of a relationship between God, nature, and man. The movement had many different characteristics like individuality, feelings being priority over reason, the fact that nature was divine, and that nature held truths.
Transcendentalists used the truths that they observed in the world and in nature to change the way society was and how people see themselves in the world. Although the idea of a utopia was not successful, the movement sparked a change in literature. Emerson and Thoreau are the two people most associated with transcendentalism. They both wrote essays about their experiences in nature and influenced many other writers to do the same (hence the transcendentalist movement). The transcendentalist thought is especially apparent in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson’s work.
Whitman and Dickenson both show many traits of the movement, but the most apparent trait is individualism. Individualism is often portrayed in Emerson and Thoreau’s work as being equal. Everyone has a soul, inner truth is the only thing that matters, and fulfillment comes from knowing one’s self. In Emerson’s essay Nature, he describes man as being universal and related. In the quote “ . . . that great nature in which we rest . . . that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other.
. . . We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. ” Emerson is saying that all men have souls and that each soul is a part of an even bigger soul, the universal soul. This is basically saying that we are all equal, but at the same time we are separated because we each have a soul of our own. In another essay, self-reliance, he stated “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?
Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood…” In this, he is saying that being misunderstood is being great. This also says that being misunderstood is forgetting what society says you should be or act like and doing what you want to do in order to find yourself and be your own person. By not caring about what others may think about your choices and decisions, you can be your own person and set an example for others to do the same.
Not only was Emerson talking about being an individual, he was also adding a bit about your feelings being more important that reason. Thoreau also writes about individualism in his essays. In Walden, Thoreau writes about the experiences and life of his life. He writes “… if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet success unexpected in common hours. ” This is saying that you should live the way that you want to live and that your inner truth or inner desires are all that matter.
Everyone has inner truth and desires and to live the life that you want to live then you should go for the dreams that you have always wanted to come true. This is a prime example of individualism because everyone has dreams and inner truths about the way that they want to live and it is completely up to them to live the way that they want to live. He also addresses individualism in another essay titled Civil Disobedience. He writes “But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.
Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step towards obtaining it…” In this, he is encouraging people to take a stand for the rights and respect they deserve. In a way, he is telling people to stop ignoring the unfair government and do something about the way you feel. This is showing again how everyone has inner truth and they should do something to change the way the world is to be better. Thoreau wanted the government to change and so he spoke about what he believed to be true.
This is him showing his individualism and encouraging others to speak up as well about the truth that they believed. Like Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman and Dickenson have both used individualism in their works, but Whitman does a better job at portraying it. In Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’, Whitman writes about everyone being equal and having equal opportunities. He states “I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, regardless of others, ever regardful of others, maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, stuffed with the stuff that is course, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine …
” In this quote he is comparing total opposites to each other. This is a way of showing how even the opposites are the same. Regardless of others, ever regardful of others means that others mean nothing to you, yet others mean everything to you. It’s contradicting, but in a way that says although others mean nothing to you, they affect you in certain ways. Everyone affects you, but you are not everyone. You are simply yourself and that is what I get from what Whitman was describing.
In another part of the poem, Whitman says ‘I am as bad as the worst, but thank God, I am as good as the best. ’ This quote stands out because it means no one is better than anyone. Just because you don’t get in trouble doesn’t mean you are any less wrong or less bad. Just because you do good things doesn’t mean you are any better! Being good is simply being good and the same goes for being bad. No one is any better or worst. This means that everyone is equal and has equal opportunities. Dickenson also uses individualism as a theme in some of her works as well.
In the poem ‘Heaven Has Different Signs—To Me’, Dickenson writes “The Rapture of a finished Day—Returning to the West—All these—remind us of the place, That Men call “paradise”” In this poem Dickinson is describing what heaven would be like. This quote refers to the end of the day for men. Individualism is living the way you want and reaching fulfillment. This quote shows how men are fulfilled in their lives and of what they call paradise. To me, I don’t think she is writing about heaven, I think she is writing about a utopia. She is writing about a place that everyone is equal and enlightened.
Dickinson and Whitman both write about being equal and living the life that you want to lead. Even though they both write about individualism, Whitman portrays it much more and it is more apparent. They were both influenced by the transcendentalist movement, but Dickinson focuses on other traits like how nature is beautiful and simple and the relationship that nature, life, and death have. The transcendentalist movement may be over, but it left an imprint in literature. Many people speak of individualism and the name most associated with it in the movement is Walt Whitman.
Works Cited Poemhunters. com. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. “Quotations by Author. ” Walt Whitman Quotes. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Thoreau, Henry D. “Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. ” Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. Jone Johnson Lewis, n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. N. p. : Jalic, 2003. Print. Whitman, Walt. “(1836)Nature. ” Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oregon State College, n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. Whitman, Walt. “Self Reliance. ” Mrgunnar. net. N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.