English III, Period 7
11 December 2013
Those who think Transcendentalism is just a literary movement that took place in the early 1800s are only half correct. Transcendentalism is indeed a literary movement; however, it is much more than that. It is meant to challenge people to think for themselves and cause change. Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee taught the importance of non-conformity and civil disobedience through short stories such as “Self Reliance” and “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, and the play, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Transcendentalism is based on the belief that knowledge is derived from experience and personal reflection as opposed to reason. Transcendentalism promotes self-revelation because it encourages people to form their own opinions and then voice them in a way that will promote change in society.
Transcendentalists ground their philosophy with the idea that every person's inner self is where knowledge is gained. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance”, he says, '"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think…It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. '" Emerson realizes that it is easy to conform to society, but there is value in forming one’s own opinion. What makes a person great is if he or she can stand out in a crowd of people. While in a crowd, one can see the overall ideas of the group but never the individual thoughts that made up these ideas. Emerson is saying that to be great, one must be able to be with the crowd physically, but mentally remain one’s own person with their own ideas. Because Transcendentalism values individual opinions, it is also important to people such as Henry David Thoreau that...
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