Thoreau’s Transcendentalism

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In the early 19th century, a philosophy known as transcendentalism emerged in America. Members of the transcendentalist movement believed that the thoughts of individuals were bastardized due to societal issues such as politics and religion. Although transcendentalists held numerous beliefs, the three essential values of transcendentalism are idealism, individualism, and the divinity of nature.

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Transcendentalists believed that individuals should be independent, and not influenced by the rules of society. Along with individualism, members of this movement used creative writing in order to describe the significance of nature, and demonstrate their love and respect for the natural world. In order to live a successful life free from the judgement of society, transcendentalists believed that it was crucial to connect and understand nature.

One of the most influential writers of this period, Henry David Thoreau, was very passionate about nature. Thoreau is most well-known for his book Walden, which describes the importance of living a simple life and being able to provide for yourself while preserving a connection to nature. The transcendentalist themes reflected in the piece were inspired by the time Thoreau lived away from society in a cabin he built himself on Walden Pond. After Thoreau’s death, another piece titled Walking was published. In this piece, Thoreau writes on the subject of nature, and dismisses the ideas of society that hinder both individual thought and the experiences provided by nature. Both of these pieces reinforce Thoreau’s message that there is value in self-reliance and discovery as well as a connection between man and nature.

Throughout both texts, Thoreau explains that nature represents the natural aspect to man that has been subdued by society. Unlike most people, Thoreau believes it is more important to be independent in both social and economic situations than to rely on society to make those decisions. Thoreau finds contentedness in solitude, and refuses to interact with society, unless it is on his own terms. Thoreau also expresses that he does not understand how people can be content in life without a strong connection to nature. A passage from Walking describes Thoreau’s opinions on normal members of society, I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least”and it is commonly more than that”sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them”as if the legs were made to sit upon,

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