Comparison Of Transcendentalism In Emerson And Nathaniel Hawthorne

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American currencies, specifically coins, have two sides: a head and a tail. The head and tail are different, yet they are still part of the same coin. Two American authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, represent two sides of the same coin: Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism swept through America as a new worldview in the 1900’s. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual and transcendental over the material, that deals with aspects of nature. Men committed their lives to the study of nature. Nature became a religion. Emerson, a transcendental optimist, claimed that each person is inherently good. Hawthorne, a transcendental pessimist, demanded that man was corrupt and inherently evil. Emerson…show more content…
People consider Emerson the “father of Transcendentalism”. He believed that man would thrive if he trusted himself. Man was inherently good and could do no wrong. In Emerson’s “Nature”, a work about Emerson’s view on nature, he writes: “We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy” (Emerson Par 2). Man did not need to rely on society, or entangle himself in the patterns of the world; man’s intuition would be enough for his success. Conversely, Hawthorne did not trust man at all. He was a Transcendental Pessimist. He believed man was corrupt, and following his intuition would fail him in life. One of Hawthorne’s short stories, “Young Goodman Brown”, portrays the tale of a young Christian man who wanders into the forest and witnesses a witch-meeting that involves some of the people Goodman Brown thought to be some of the holiest people he knew: the church Deacon, the pastor, and even Brown’s own wife, Faith. After the witch-meeting incident in the woods, Brown wonders whether he witnessed the witch meeting, or if it was a creation of his own imagination: “quote”. The theme of “Young Goodman Brown”, specifically Brown’s distrust of his own self reveals Hawthorne’s belief that man cannot trust himself. Furthermore, though Hawthorne and Emerson were both…show more content…
The Transcendentalists believed in a Universal Being that existed in nature. When Emerson is in nature, it consumes him: “I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God” (Emerson 3). In Emerson’s mind, nature offers perpetual youth and joy, and counteracts whatever misfortune befalls an individual. The visionary man may lose himself in it, may become a receptive "transparent eyeball" through which the Universal Being transmits itself into his consciousness and makes him sense his oneness with God. Though Hawthorne believed in the same Universal Being, but in Hawthorne’s mind the Being was dark and mysterious, and lingered in the supernatural shadows. Hawthorne could not decipher if the Being was there to harm or help humanity. Again, in “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne describes the Being’s impact on nature: “The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds--the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell… as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors” (Hawthorne 4). Hawthorne not only describes the being, but also lampoons/mocks Emerson’s view of Transcendentalism with the phrase
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