American Literature

Transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau

believe in individualism; that society and its institutions, such as organized political parties and religion, corrupt a person's total purity. Transcendentalism is a philosophical, literary, and political movement in the United States that began in the early nineteenth century and was centered on figures such as Henry David Thoreau (Johnson. "Emerson And Thoreau: Transcendental Ideas and Nature.")

As a Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau

envisioned a universe separated into two significant parts: nature and the soul. In his writing, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau claims that the only obligation he had the right to assume was doing at any time what he thought to be right (David. "Civil Disobedience"). Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience, expressed his belief and obligation of a person to tell the difference between right and wrong, irrespective of what the society dictates. He argued, "any man righter than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one" (Walden 71). He believed in individualism, and that made his dissent from the society’s prevailing views in some ways, both small and large (Walden 72-73). Throughout his life, Thoreau never married, cultivated relationship with the town’s outcasts, lived for two years in the woods alone and signed off from Church to avoid automatic taxation in support of the church (Thoreau. "Walden: life in the woods"). To relate to his lifestyle in his writing, he states that he in his life never found a companion so companionable as he did in solitude (Walden 135).

Thoreau further quoted

that if a person keeps pace, not with his companions is because the drummer he heard is different from theirs (Walden 326). For every Transcendentalist, there was that special connection with nature, and they believed that every person should develop their understanding of nature and the universe at a personal level (Goodman. "Transcendentalism"). Thoreau was a self-taught and a dedicated naturalist who always disciplined himself to keenly observe and record the natural phenomena which enriched his political writings, especially in Walden. For instance, he talks of the red squirrels that came and went, according to him entertainment by their maneuvers (Walden 273-274). Through his transcendentalist texts, Thoreau emerged the most notable author in the American literature in the 19th Century as he brings the art of nature closer to the hearts of people (Hornát, "The Relevance of Henry David Thoreau’s Thought in the 21St Century | POST").

To most people, Henry was and is still considered as a cranky hermit. But according to ("Henry David Thoreau," American Transcendentalism Web), he was far from that: he found joy in daily life unlike most people perceived. However, not everyone is convinced that transcendentalist’s nature of Thoreau was one to admire. To some critics, he had spurned the company of humanity as he was a narcissist, knew less of the about the mass of men as well as their quiet desperation (Hohn. "Stop Hating on Henry David Thoreau."). Moreover, some critics like Schulz (“Pond Scum”) believe that Henry was self-obsessed, adamant that he only required himself alone to thrive and get a better understanding of the world, and that he was narcissistic. However, I beg to contrast with the critics; just because Thoreau had a different view of the world did not mean he was egocentric or a narcissist. He mingled with the town outcast, and that implies that he loved humans although he was not ready to be a slave of the world’s politics and religion (Thoreau. "Walden and civil disobedience").

Work Cited

"Henry David Thoreau." Archive.Vcu.Edu,

David, Henry. Civil Disobedience. Broadview Press, 2016.

Goodman, Russell. "Transcendentalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)." Plato.Stanford. Edu, 2017,

Hohn, Donovan. "Stop Hating on Henry David Thoreau." The New Republic, 2015,

Hornát, Jan. "The Relevance of Henry David Thoreau’S Thought in the 21St Century | POST." Postnito.Cz, 2016,

Johnson, John. "Emerson And Thoreau: Transcendental Ideas and Nature." 2014,

Schulz, Kathryn. "Henry David Thoreau, Hypocrite." The New Yorker, 2015,

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and civil disobedience. Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2017.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: life in the woods. Gibbs Smith, 2017.

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