Examples Of Transcendentalism In Walt Whitman's 'Song Of Myself'

842 Words4 Pages

Gi Kim
Instructor Garnett
ENG 241
16 June 2015
Transcendentalism flourished and emerged effectively during the 1800s mainly with the help of Ralph Waldo Emerson and other writers, artists, and reformers. As other Transcendentalists accepted that “the individual was at the center of the universe” (Wiswall para 1), Emerson as well explicated his beliefs through writings. During 1820s and 1830s, only a certain number of people comprehended the idea of Transcendentalism because it was complex (“The Emergence of Transcendentalism” para 1). Transcendentalism influenced Walt Whitman greatly as Transcendentalists represented transcendentalism to society. Therefore, in “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman uses transcendental ideals to challenge Americans …show more content…

Transcendentalism developed mainly during 1820s to 1840s and as a protest to the liberal New England Congregationalists. Transcendentalists believed in inheriting goodness of both man and nature, and its definition is “The view that the basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge we obtain from our senses, reason, logic, or laws of science. We learn these truths through our intuition, our ‘Divine Intellect’” (“Transcendentalism” para 1). However, transcendentalists criticized Harvard University for emphasizing intellectualism and Unitarian church teaching at Harvard Divinity School. Transcendentalists thought that formulating religion and political parties were depraving the purity of the individual (“Thoreau and Emerson” para 3), which caused disrespect toward other races, especially African Americans.
Walt Whitman discloses his aspect on the abolition of slavery through his life and poems (“Walt Whitman Biography” para 3). In 1850s, there was a law called Fugitive Slave Act. This law strengthened previous law which added penalties for helping slaves. The fine increased to $1000 and six months in jail, and runaway slaves were not allowed to testify on their own behalf (“Fugitive Slave Act”). Despise the Fugitive Slave Act, Whitman appear as a heroic character who helps a runaway …show more content…

Once a Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew it passes into other habitations… It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead;… and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new disguise." As Whitman was influenced by Transcendentalism, he believed in reincarnation which idea is permanent existence. The individual “soul comes into incarnation (birth) and withdraws from incarnation (death), cyclically to gain experience and evolve in consciousness, each time as a new personality” (“Evolution in Consciousness: Karma and Reincarnation” para 6), therefore, through lines 1288-1297 Whitman keep on referring to death and how he is not afraid of death. He even says that he have died “thousand times before.” As a consequence of his belief, he was able to view the world optimistically.
Transcendentalism, the belief of Ralph Waldo Emerson changed Walt Whitman’s perspective of the world. By introducing himself as an omniscient narrator, Whitman criticizes contemporary society for depraving purity of one’s soul. Instead, society should know how disruption of balance could create chaotic situation such as inhumane act such as slavery and by acknowledging God

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