Ralph Waldo Emerson: Nature Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed perfect exhilaration. Almost I fear to think how glad I am. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Henry David Thoreau: Waldo Where I Lived, and What I Lived For I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; not did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were two of the most influential writers of the 19 th century.
Emerson is considered the father of Transcendentalism. He was a optimistic writer who appealed to both the intellectuals and the general public. He wrote about many things, including views on nature, the individual, and the afterlife. Thoreau came after Emerson and was a difficult man who appeared to be a failure.
After traveling to Walden Pond, he wrote his most renowned book, Walden. He supported individualism and the idea of not conforming to society. Emerson influenced Thoreau s ideas, but they both had their individualistic styles. Emerson appears to be superior in both the effectiveness of his style and the conveying of his transcendental ideas. Both Thoreau and Emerson use paradoxes in the passages above.
In the phrase, Almost I fear to think how glad I am, Emerson presents a contradiction; it seems paradoxical that he fears his happiness. The phrase shows the complexity of what Emerson feels. He is expressing that, in his state of mind, he is so incredibly happy that it scares him. It is almost as if he is in disbelief. This paradox is very simple and precise, yet it presents a very powerful revelation.
Thoreau uses a paradox in the line, I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear. Literally, how can one live something that is not life It makes no sense. But, in a deeper sense, the statement reveals Thoreau s complex idea that he didn t just want to live, he wanted to live, and get all he could out of life. This paradox, although particularly thought provoking, is not as straightforward and direct as Emerson s, so it loses some of its effectiveness. Both writers make use of figurative language.
Emerson uses a simile in the words, a man casts off his years, like the snake his slough. This phrase compares years and a snake s skin, two very dissimilar things, but it compares them in a way that makes sense. The simile, although simple, creates a clear, vivid picture in the reader s mind. Thoreau s metaphor in the sentence, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, vividly expresses his idea that he wanted to live so vigorously and get everything he could out of life. This metaphor, although more complex than Emerson s simile, lacks the clarity that the simile contains. Therefore, it is less effective in the eyes of the reader.
Instead or being ornate and flowery, both writers use a very plain, common use of diction. This makes the writing more direct and easier for the reader to understand. Thoreau s passage mainly stresses the idea that one should get all they can out of life. This relates to the transcendental idea that more important than a concern about the afterlife, should be a concern for this life. The overall transcendental idea that Emerson conveys in the passage is that God can be found anywhere in nature. In nature, a person is not judged by his appearance or age; he is regarded as fresh and new.
The two passages convey different transcendental ideas, but Emerson does a better job of conveying the basic idea of Transcendentalism. Because Emerson was more effective in style, his transcendental ideas were portrayed better. Emerson s ideas are more important to the philosophical movement because they do a better job of explaining the ideas of nature and individualism. Both Thoreau and Emerson were important Transcendental writers who shaped the culture and thinking of America today. Their influence can be seen in all parts of society today, from the individualistic clothing styles to the new self-help therapy books. In conclusion, Emerson, the father of Transcendentalism, as a whole, was a more effective writer.
Thoreau, although a great essayist and writer, did not succeed in surpassing Emerson in his writing styles.