Mr. Andrew Werhane
English 11 Accelerated
October 5, 2014
Clash of Ideas: The Transcendentalism and AntiTranscendentalist View on the World
There was a period of time during the 1800’s called the Romanticism period; it was a period of artistic, literary and, intellectual movement. During the Romanticism period there were two main groups of people, the transcendentalist and the antitranscendentalist. While the transcendentalist were trying rise through the limits of existence and return to mans original relationship it had with nature, the antitranscendentalist thought that everything that the transcendentalist thought was wrong; they instead believed that no matter what everyone is still human and will always be imperfect beings.
Two of these antitranscendentalists were Edger Allen Poe, as reflected in his short story
The Fall of House of Usher, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as reflected in his short story The
Birthmark. Antitranscendentalist believes that humans will always have a flaw in them and no matter what, you can’t change it. That man is inherently sinful and will always be that way.
Antitranscendentalism focuses more the darker, more evil, side of human nature. It believes that there are only individual truths, there are no universal truths. On the other hand we have the
Transcendentalist. Transcendentalist believe that perfection can be achieved; that one can go above and beyond human nature, but only if one gets back in touch with mans’ original relationship with nature, but this all must be achieved alone. Two writers who reflected the
ideas of the transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, as shown in his work Walden, and
Ralph Waldo Emerson, as shown is his work of his essays.
Thoreau, being one of the more well know transcendentalist, reflected transcendentalist ideas in his literature. He went out into the woods to go into solitude and try and actually live that aspect of the transcendental idea. Thoreau wanted to know what it actually meant to be a transcendentalist, he said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,”(Thoreau
255). He says there that he purposely went out into the woods, he went to the woods because there would be no other humans around to disturb him. He also went out into the forest to find what nature had to say about the truth of life, another principle of transcendentalism. He said he went to the woods , “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not,” (Thoreau 255), he wanted to find the truths of life that his ancestors before him found but, on his own. To conclude, Thoreau also followed the principle of achieving perfection and being the best “you”, “you” could be. From his experience alone Thoreau learned,
“if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”(Thoreau 240). That is just one of the many truths that Thoreau found on his journey before he left to continue on with his life.
Another more well know transcendentalist was Ralph Waldo Emerson. He, too, like
Thoreau was a transcendentalist. Although he didn't take a journey to live in the forest, he still pondered on the ideas of transcendentalism. For example, he reflected more on the ideas of individualism and creating one’s own path instead of putting it in Emerson's words, “It builds the sepulchers of the fathers”(Emerson 214). Emerson is saying that all we are doing right now is
doing things for no particular reason. We are only doing it because our ancestors did it. He also said that everyone should be there own person. That one shouldn’t copy someone else because than one wouldn’t be loyal to themselves or as Emerson put it, “that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse, as his portion (Emerson 215).