Transcendentalism is a newly founded belief and practice that involves man's interaction with nature, and the idea that man belongs to a universal spirit known as the oversoul. This idea inspired new ways of thinking among many individuals. Two leaders of this era were Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. These two, whom were good friends and roommates during college, shared many common ideas. The two authors, over time, developed nearly identical ideas of transcendentalism and very similar styles of writing. While both writers include ideas of nature, conformity, individualism, and the pressures of society, they also share many differences in their ways of developing and expressing their feelings.
During Thoreau and Emerson's exploration of their new ideas, they both developed many of the same ideas. They shared an objection to conformity and both strongly supported individualism. If somebody has something to say, they should say what's on their minds then and there. Emerson shows his opinion of those that aren't open to new ideas when he states in Self-Reliance, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." In this quote, Emerson wants people to realize that people change their minds for various reasons, and that they shouldn't be stubborn and unchanging.
Henry David Thoreau agrees with this same idea when, in the "Conclusion" to Walden, he says, "Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make believe." While both believe in expressing one's self, they both agree that everyone has their own opinions and it doesn't do any good to just repeat somebody else's thoughts. Although both did primarily relate transcendentalism to nature, Thoreau chose to use his new ideas to change his own life, while Emerson instead decided to inspire others to explore. They differed in that Thoreau chose to live out his writings. He experimented by living with nature during the writing of one of his main works, Walden. In Thoreau's quote from the Conclusion of Walden, "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours", he expresses his willingness to go out into the wilderness and live up to his ideas being presented.
Thoreau takes action from his beliefs and therefore writes in first person perspective, while Emerson, who keeps to a more ordinary city lifestyle, directs his pieces to an audience and tries to express a point. Emerson shows his distinctly outside view when he says in the beginning of Self-Reliance, "Accept the place the diving providence has found for you." (364). Although both authors do write about nearly identical ideas and beliefs, Thoreau takes more action in going out and living in nature and performing the tasks that he has written of. While the two authors share many common ideas such as: conformity, individualism, and peoples obligation to express what is on their minds, they do differ in their writing style and their reasons for writing about transcendentalism. While Emerson writes to get a point across to the public in a third person perspective, Thoreau writes more in first person in a more narrative style because he actually acted out many of his teachings. Of all of their similarities and differences, Thoreau states the main backing of all of their ideas presented when he states in "The Conclusion" of Walden, "However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names." As being the two most popular transcendentalists of their time, they both agree on the main ideas of transcendentalism..