Transcendentalism And The Work Of Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Transcendentalism is an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around the 1900s due to rationalism. During the time the most important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Lydia Maria Child, Amos Bronson Alcott, Frederic Henry Hedge, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Theodore Parker, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The transcendentalists believed that everything was a reflection of God. They believed that contemplating nature can allow you to transcend the real world. Also, a person’s true feelings and intuition are more valuable than book knowledge, a person’s instincts can lead them to understand God’s spirit, and individualism and self-reliance are better than following others. This essay is being made to describe the transcendentalist movement and the great ideas it brought into society and to provide examples pulled from Self Reliance by Emerson page 364.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25th of 1803. He was an American transcendentalist poet, philosopher, and essayist in the 1900s. He wrote “Self Reliance” after he had become a transcendentalist along with another essay called “The American Scholar”. He wrote this essay as a way to respond to or even protest the general state of intellectualism and even spirituality. He also speaks about ways to avoid conforming in this essay. Also, he speaks about how each person should follow their instincts and ideas and not do what everyone else is doing.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson stated a lot of things in this essay. He had said “But these impulses may be from below, not from above” and then says “They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil. I believe what Emerson was trying to say is that if he isn’t a child of God, then he isn’t going to worship God. That if he is a child of the Devil then that would be his new leader. He also states “What I do is all that concerns me, not what the people think”, which kind of implies that he doesn’t care what people think of him or his actions.

Another thing that I noticed is the author seemed sad or depressed when talking about how the world would judge you for your past actions instead of looking toward your future. He says “The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loth to disappoint them…”. I feel that the author was trying to send a message to people not to judge a book before they read it. You should never hate someone because of their past words or actions.

The very last sentence in this short essay caught my attention. Ralph Waldo Emerson states that “To be great is to be misunderstood”. I feel that he is trying to tell the reader that sometimes you have to be misunderstood before you get something great. II felt that Emerson was trying to explain how he was misunderstood for a while and then he did something great and everyone noticed him then. Since Emerson did something great after being misunderstood he didn’t think it was so bad to be misunderstood again.

This piece is the only one I liked out of all my other options. I feel it possibly means something to me. It is something I would recommend to other people that I feel it will also have an impact on. There aren’t too many essays I would read just to do it, but this one I might read again. I feel the author was kind of depressed throughout the story until the end when he did something great finally and got recognized for once. I can relate to this because I also feel I am not noticed unless I do something great that people like and admire.

This piece kind of fits my everyday life. I am hardly noticed unless I accomplish something and someone is proud of me and pays attention to my work. I agree with what the author is trying to say when he stated “With consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do.” I love how it is worded and I believe he is trying to say that if you continue doing good and being a good person then you will never have anything to do. This essay makes me feel that I could start doing better and maybe it would make a big impact on the way my life is going right now. I will most likely recommend this short essay to someone else to read because I believe it has made an impact on me as a person and maybe it will help someone else as well.    

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