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Walden and Transcendentalism Essay

Essay about Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism was an early philosophical, intellectual, and literary movement that thrived in New England in the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism was a collection of new ideas about literature, religion, and philosophy. It began as a squabble in the Unitarian church when intellectuals began questioning and reacting against many of the church’s orthodoxy ways regarding all of the aforementioned subjects: religion, culture, literature, social reform, and philosophy. They in turn developed…

Transcendentalism: Henry David Thoreau Essay

and eventually led him to write Walden (Henry David Thoreau, Discovering Biography). Walden was also inspired by Transcendentalism, a literary movement that challenged the use and need for material objects and religious evidence. Transcendentalism provided Thoreau with a different view on humanity and religion. Thoreau wrote Walden to document his years spent living at Walden Pond and to express his ideas on the simplicity and individual nature of humanity. Walden is a series of loosely strung together…

Essay on Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism Many people have theories and philosophies about life in general. There have been hundreds of thousands of books published by many different people on the ideas of people in the past and the present. Transcendentalism falls in amongst all of these ideas. There have been articles, essays, poems, and even books written about this subject. Transcendentalism has effected many people since the philosophy was first introduced. The idea was complex and hard to grasp for many…

Was Chris McCandless a Transcendentalism?

Society is in a constant rush and McCandless believes that people need to slow down their lives and appreciate nature. Thoreau said something similar in ‘Walden’, which is “Hardly a man takes a half-hour’s nap after dinner, but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, ‘What’s the news?’ as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels” (Walden). They both criticize the pace of society and the need for material possessions to live. Thus, McCandless also is considered a transcendentalist because…

Transcendentalism Essay

Transcendentalism is a movement that started in New England in the early to mid nineteenth century. It was created as a protest against the general culture at the time, straying away from the mindless doctrines of the churches. I think that Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson did a good job of explaining what Transcendentalism is really about, which is that death is coming for everyone. Our Town stands out to me because it doesn’t use any props, and its strong symbolism that makes a point…

Essay about Transcendentalism in Literature

The New England Renaissance brought out two distinct, yet influential movements known as transcendentalism and anti-transcendentalism. The two concentrated on intuition and human nature and formed a revolt against previously accepted ideas such as Calvinist orthodoxy, strict Puritan attitudes, ritualism, and the dogmatic theology of religious institutions. Transcendentalism is a term rooted back to Plato, a Greek philosopher who first affirmed the existence of absolute goodness, which he characterized…

Walden and Transcendentalism Essay

WALDEN AND TRANSCENDENTALISM Henry Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden or a Life in the Woods, shows the impact transcendentalism had on Thoreau’s worldview. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual over the material. Transcendentalism puts the emphasis on spiritual growth and understanding as opposed to worldly pleasures. Thoreau’s idea of transcendentalism stressed the importance of nature and being close to nature. He believed that nature was a metaphor…

The Literary Movement of Transcendentalism Essay examples

Transcendentalism was a literary movement in the first half of the 19th century. The philosophical theory contained such aspects as self-examination, the celebration of individualism, and the belief that the fundamental truths existed outside of human experience. Fulfillment of this search for knowledge came when one gained an acute awareness of beauty and truth, and communicated with nature to find union with the Over-Soul. When this occurred, one was cleansed of materialistic aims, and was…

Nature Ralph Walden Emerson and Henry David Thoreau Walden

SELDA PUR 2009105153 ‘NATURE’ AND ‘WALDEN’ ‘Nature’ and ‘Walden’ are two art works basically giving the similar messages to the readers. Their writers are different but one of the things which make these works similar is Henry David Thoreau is affected by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s works and ideas very much. Secondly, their essays are both inspired from transcendentalism movement. Finally, their theme are both the same, they deal with mainly the idea of ‘nature’. While comparing these two essays, it is…

Essay on Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

belief called Transcendentalism. He wrote the essay, “Self Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau, another Transcendentalist wrote an essay called, “Walden.” Both works of literature focus on the Transcendentalism belief. In “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne reveals both Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism through the attitudes of the characters. Therefore, “The Minister’s Black Veil” can be compared and contrasted with both “Self Reliance” and “Walden.” During the…

Walden essay

11 October 1999

Kelly Van Haaften

The Image of Time in Thoreau’s Walden

Throughout our experience of Walden Pond as seen through the eyes of Henry David Thoreau, we catch glimpses of ways in which Thoreau separates himself from the “outside world” during his time at the pond. Thoreau uses the concept of time as a way to illustrate his independence from the current society. By ignoring the common usage of hours, minutes and seconds, Thoreau claims that these detailed measurements of time are not necessary for a meaningful life. Instead, he focuses on broader concepts of time such as seasons and years. In addition, Thoreau presents a circular view of time as he emphasizes renewal of the past. In this way, Thoreau uses the image of time to mirror his idea of a simplistic and circular lifestyle. Yet Thoreau’s image of time poses some unresolved conflicts when trying to compare learning from the past to focusing on the present, and also when comparing living by the moment to living according to a “big picture”. Eventually, we join Thoreau in realizing that we must look beyond time and focus on its transcendental significance in order to fully understand its true meaning and relevance to the world.

Thoreau’s main purpose in living at Walden Pond was to remove himself from the mainstream culture found in the nearby towns. In order to justify his attempt to escape from society, Thoreau criticizes the hurried and fast-paced way of life which was so common during the Industrial Revolution. Thoreau desires to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life” and “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” (59). To accomplish these ideals, Thoreau believes that life must be at a slow pace in order to allow opportunities to discover the inner truths of life. Additionally, Thoreau not only recommends a slower pace of work, but suggests that one should not work at all and focus on the discovery of your own personal self. By claiming that work is unnecessary, Thoreau rejects the current images of time in his era such as factory time clocks, railroad time schedules, and hurried industrial production. He views unemployment as freedom from the “slavery” of time and its burdens of busyness and stress.

Thoreau believes that “when we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence” (62). In other words, we are only able to grasp the importance of life when we are not rushed by time. The true meaning of life is independent of time in the same way that Thoreau is independent of time during his stay at Walden Pond. Therefore, Thoreau’s opposition to a hurried life, governed by the strict rules of the workplace, is mirrored by his rejection of a time-governed lifestyle in order to discover the true, basic meaning of life.

In his pursuit of these basic truths, Thoreau attempts to simplify his life in every way possible, including his thoughts concerning time. Throughout his description of Walden Pond, Thoreau refers to the changes that occur over the seasons and years. In particular, he gives a thorough description of the seasonal colors of the pond and its surroundings (114-5, 122). Not only does the environment change with the seasons, but also Thoreau himself experiences changes in his tone and attitude. As nature is bleak and dreary during the winter, so Thoreau begins to question his success and self-worth during those long, cold months. Spring seems to bring with it a sense of renewal and hope which permeates Thoreau’s mind-set and outlook. Thoreau governs his life by the passing of seasons and the changes which each of them brings to his surroundings and ignores the details of time. It seems as if Thoreau prefers to examine life according to a broad picture, therefore allowing him a more complete view of life and its purpose.

Thoreau chooses to examine smaller increments of time (minutes and seconds) in a broader sense such as time of day (morning, afternoon, evening). He discovers at Walden Pond that morning is “the most memorable season of the day” (58). During his discourse on the importance of a good morning, Thoreau calls attention to the subject of awakening. He claims that one will have a better and more fulfilled day if awakened by “our Genius” or “our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within” rather than the commonly used mechanical alarm clock (58). In this way, Thoreau is rebelling against a scheduled, time-governed society and is trying to live a simple, self-governed life. During his quest to discover the true essentials of life, Thoreau finds that most of life can be lived from within one’s self. He attempts to rely completely on himself and his own experiences – not those of others. Therefore, Thoreau simplifies his life by removing the need for mechanical timekeepers and using broad concepts of time to govern his life.

The passing of seasons at Walden Pond is not only a symbol of Thoreau’s simplistic lifestyle but also represents a circular view of time. Each season can be seen as transitional from the past to the future. For example, during the fall, one can see the multitude of leaves which grew in abundance during the summer. At the same time, the leaves are beginning to die and fall to the ground, giving us an indication that cooler weather is ahead. The characteristics of each season are dependent on the preceding and following seasons, and together they form a never-ending circle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. Thoreau’s emphasizes the changes that occur in and around the pond and tells of how the pond rises and falls according to the seasons (117). Overall, Thoreau sees the passage of seasons as an indicator of a circular concept of time. By looking beyond time, Thoreau can apply this intrinsic circularity to his own life.

Thoreau’s circular view of life can be seen when he recalls his past experiences at Walden Pond and compares them to his present experiences there. Thoreau says, “When I was four years old, as I will remember, I was brought from Boston to this my native town, through these very woods and this field, to the pond” (101). He continues to explain how he has now returned to the pond which has been “one of the oldest scenes stamped on [his] memory” (101). In this way, Thoreau fulfills a dream he had as a young child and completes his circle of life by returning to the pond. In the same way, Thoreau gives us an account of the past inhabitants of the surrounding area. Many of these people were lower class, minorities or former slaves who, like Thoreau, were attempting to escape from society. This shows evidence of circular time, as Walden Pond blends past, present and future into one circular concept of time and allows people to escape reality.

Not only do Thoreau and his neighbors experience this type of circular life, but it seems that all men tend to return to the ways of their ancestors. Thoreau points out that “this generation is very sure to plant corn and beans each new year precisely as the Indians did centuries ago and taught the first settlers to do, as if there were a fate in it” (107). In all areas of life, we can look to our ancestors to find wisdom, and we can learn from their failures and successes.

However Thoreau does not emphasize past experiences but focuses instead on the present moment. He states that “the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial” (5). Here, Thoreau is trying to show us that we must live out our own experiences and not rely on the experiences of others. We may still return to the ways of the past, but in doing so we will make our own experiences and live according to our own expectations, not those of others. We must learn from the past but not let it dictate our choices. In the same way, Thoreau looks at the future and the direction in which the current society is going. He dislikes the way that life is becoming more detailed, complicated and rushed due to the Industrial Revolution, and would rather see us make the most of every moment by living simply and thoughtfully. While Thoreau values the past or the future, he emphasizes the present and is “anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line” (10). This shows Thoreau’s emphasis on living every moment of life to its fullest. Eventually, we may look at the big picture of life and see all of those individual moments added up to be one circle in the same way that time is circular. These life and time circles are complete in themselves and their beginnings and endings do not rely on outside sources but come from within.

Yet in the middle of passing time and changing seasons, “Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity” (125). Thoreau refers to the stability of the pond by saying, “Successive nations perchance have drank at, admired, and fathomed it, and passed away, but still its water is green and pellucid as ever” (116). Perhaps Thoreau desires to be like the pond as it is unaffected by the changes which occur over time. Thoreau compares himself to Walden Pond by saying that the pond “is itself unchanged, the same water which my youthful eyes fell on; all the change is in me” (125). Thoreau stresses that the pond has the unique ability to exist beyond the reaches of time. He would like to be able to look through the pond to see beyond time and focus on its transcendental meaning in the same way that he focuses beyond the rest of the universe to discover truth. Walden Pond seems to be a part of nature yet separate from it, and the pond symbolizes a more pure form of nature and a perfect reflection of the transcendental realm. By examining the relationship between time and Walden Pond, we can look beyond it and see what a perfect relationship with the universe should be, and consequently we are brought closer to discovering the essential truths of life.

by Henry David Thoreau

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Back to Nature in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Essay

Essay on Henry David Thoreau's Integrity

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Henry David Thoreau

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Few contemporaries of Henry David Thoreau would have predicted the enormous popularity his small volume Walden would eventually win. Author and work were virtually neglected during Thoreau’s lifetime. Locally, he was considered the village eccentric; even his great friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was disappointed because his young disciple seemingly frittered away his talent instead of “engineering for all America.” After Thoreau’s death in 1862, his works attracted serious critical attention, but unfavorable reviews by James Russell Lowell and Robert Louis Stevenson severely damaged his reputation. Toward the end of the nineteenth century he began to win favorable attention again, mainly in Britain. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when most people were forced to cut the frills from their lives, Walden, which admonishes readers to “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” became something of a fad. In the 1960’s, with new awareness of environmental issues and emphasis on nonconformity, Thoreau was exalted as a prophet and Walden as the individualist’s bible.

Walden can be approached in several different ways. It can be viewed as an excellent nature book. During the Romantic era, many writers, such as William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, paid tribute to nature. Thoreau, however, went beyond simply rhapsodizing natural wonders. He was a serious student of the natural world, one who would spend hours observing a woodchuck or tribes of battling ants, who meticulously sounded and mapped Walden Pond, who enjoyed a hilarious game of tag with a loon. Like Emerson, he saw nature as a master teacher. In his observations of nature, Thoreau was a scientist; in his descriptions, a poet; in his interpretations, a philosopher and psychologist. Certainly he was an ecologist in his insistence on humanity’s place in (not power over) the natural universe and on the need for daily contact with the earth.

Walden may also be considered as a handbook for the simplification of life. As such, it becomes a commentary on the sophistication, “refinement,” frequently distorted values, and devotion to things of civilized society. Thoreau admits the necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and fuel, “for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success.” He then illustrates how people may strip these necessities to essentials for survival and health, ignoring the dictates of fashion or the yearning for luxury. “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life,” he asserts, “are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” With relentless logic he points out how making a living has come to take precedence over living itself; how people mortgage themselves to pay for more land and fancier clothing and food than they really require; how they refuse to walk to a neighboring city because it will take too long, but then must work longer than the walk would take in order to pay for a train ticket. He questions the dedication to “progress,” noting that it is technological, not spiritual. “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

Perhaps the most serious purpose of Walden, and its most powerful message, is to call people to freedom as individuals. One looks at nature in order to learn about oneself; one simplifies one’s life in order to have time to develop the self fully; one must honor one’s uniqueness if one is to know full self-realization. It is this emphasis on nonconformity that has so endeared Thoreau to the young over successive generations; many young readers have adopted as their call to life these words from the final chapter of Walden: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Thoreau’s prose exhibits an ease, a clarity, and a concreteness that separate it from the more abstract, eloquent, and frequently involuted styles of his contemporaries. The ease and seeming spontaneity are deceptive. Thoreau revised the book meticulously during the five years it took to find a publisher; five complete drafts demonstrate how consciously he organized not only the general outline but also every chapter and paragraph. For an overall pattern, he condensed the two years of his actual Walden experience into one fictional year, beginning and concluding with spring—the time of rebirth.

The pace and tone of Walden are also carefully controlled. Thoreau’s sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly. The reader is frequently surprised to discover that sentences occasionally run to more than half a page, paragraphs to a page or more; the syntax is so skillfully handled that one never feels tangled in verbiage. The tone varies from matter-of-fact to poetic to inspirational and is spiced with humor—usually some well-placed satire—at all levels. Even the most abstract topics are handled in concrete terms; Thoreau’s ready use of images and figurative language prepares one for twentieth century Imagist poetry.

Taken as a whole, Walden is a first-rate example of organic writing, with organization, style, and content fused to form a work that, more than 150 years after its publication, is as readable as and perhaps even more timely than when it was written. In Walden, Thoreau reaches across the years to continue to “brag as lustily as Chanticleer . . . to wake my neighbors up.”

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Walden Homework Help Questions

Thoreau moved to the woods of Walden Pond to learn to live deliberately. He desired to learn what life had to teach him. He moved to the woods to experience a purposeful life. He did not want to.

In this quote from “Walden,” Henry David Thoreau is giving his advice about how to live one’s life. The basic idea of this quote )and the lines that come before it) is that one must live life to.

What Thoreau says is that a man who does not keep pace with his companions may be marching to the beat of a different drummer. If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is.

Because of his Transcendentalist philosophies, Henry David Thoreau was anti-slavery, believing that man was intended to find his own destiny and his own spiritual meaning separated from the.

I’m assuming that you don’t quite understand the phrases and need some interpretion? If that’s the case, I will try to help. “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau is a very thought-provoking account.

Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Thanks to all who entered the 2017-2018 Live Deliberately Essay Contest! We more than doubled last year’s record number of entries, with more than 2400 submissions!

Results will be announced around April 27, so please check back to read the winning essays! Below is the prompt to which this year’s contestants responded:

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked,

in which you can walk with love and reverence.

Essay Prompt: In an essay of 750 words or fewer, describe a time in your life when you pursued a path that was “narrow and crooked,” but felt like it was the right path for you. In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with “love and reverence?” How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?

Essay Contest Information and Timeline

Each year, the Live Deliberately Essay Contest invites youth from around the world, ages 14-21, to consider a selected Henry David Thoreau quotation and accompanying prompt. Contestants are asked to write a thoughtful essay that uses personal experience and observation to demonstrate how that year’s quotation and prompt relate to their own lives and to the world around them. Like Thoreau, these young people use the power of their words to convey vivid stories, personal conviction and human compassion.

The contest has three age groups: 14-16, 17-18, and 19-21. One winner will be identified in each age group and will receive a $250 cash prize, plus an autographed special edition of Walden. Essays may also be selected to receive Honorable Mention in each age group, which will be awarded with an autographed special edition of Walden.

The deadline for essay submission is usually March 15. Each essay is reviewed by at least two readers and results are announced by the end of April.

Please read the Contest Guidelines for more information about the Contest and some tips to help you write your essay.

For information about past contest winners and to read their essays, click here.

The Live Deliberately Essay Contest is guided by the talented members of the Essay Contest Advisory Board:

  • Sam Corron, Walden Woods Project’s Social Media and Communications Coordinator
  • Lindsay Dent, high school English teacher in Georgia and Approaching Walden Alum
  • Susan Licher, Walden Woods Project’s Education Programs Assistant
  • Jessica Moore Kaplan, Boston-based editor and producer
  • Patricia Smith, high school English teacher in Virginia and Approaching Walden Alum

Additionally, our contest is made possible by a number of thoughtful volunteer Guest Readers during each review cycle. To learn more about the roles of both the Advisory Board and the Guest Readers, download the Live Deliberately Essay Contest Volunteer Opportunities (PDF).

Thoreau quotation

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.

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