Individualism In American Literature: The Values Of Romanticism

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The Values of Romanticism
What is Romanticism? In The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal (1948), F.L. Lucas defines Romanticism in 11396 kinds of ways. However, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Romanticism is only defined as a period of time during the late 18th and early 19th century where people valued emotions over reasons. Romanticism is a movement originated from Europe and slowly spread throughout the world. This philosophy is created as a reaction to Neoclassicism, Industrial Revolution, and Enlightenment. Romanticism had great influences over artworks, including literature and paintings. The Romantic authors often presented values and characters of Romanticism in their writings. Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
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The values of Romanticism include the idea of individualism, human’s respect toward nature, and the emphasis on emotions.
During the Romantic Era, many authors began to promote individuality and to oppose the society. In their art works, Romanticists often try to convince the public that all individuals should be unique, different from everyone else. Instead of following the social trends and copy others, individuals should trust their own decisions. The idea of individuality is clearly presented in Self Reliance, a prose written by Ralph Emerson. Through the title of Self Reliance, Emerson directly expresses his belief that individuals must rely only on themselves. Throughout the whole passage, Emerson emphasizes on the word “trust”. Emerson urges everyone to “Trust thyself (p. 247)”, and follow their heart. Emerson states, “The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. (p. 245-246)” Emerson believes that every individuals is born with different talents. It is our own duty to work hard to discover our talents. In addition, Emerson
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Most of the Romanticists consider nature as a better place compared to the society. Romantics view society as a corrupted place. In contrast, they view nature as a pure and spiritual place. Since nature has not yet been polluted by the corruption in the society, it symbolizes purity. Romantics often try to find inner peace and happiness in life from going into nature. The Romantic author’s love of nature can be seen from both Nature, written by Ralph Emerson, and Walden, written by Henry Thoreau. In the Nature, Emerson describes nature as a sacred place. Emerson has a positive view of nature. In the passage, Emerson states, “Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all (p. 242).” Emerson believes that nature can bring purity into a man’s heart. In Emerson’s view, “The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things (p.210-241).” Emerson believes that nature and God would protect man from all evil things in the society. In the Walden, Thoreau explores s similar theme of nature. In the beginning of the prose, Thoreau directly explains that he decides to go to live in the wild because he wants to enjoy his life and live it deliberately. Thoreau says, “One day when I went out to my woodpile, or rather my pile of

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