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Henry David Thoreau (see ; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American , , , , , , , , and . A leading , Thoreau is best known for his book , a reflection upon in natural surroundings, and his essay (also known as ), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Transcendentalist writing had to do with the human sprit and its connection to nature.

As an author writing during the heart of the American Renaissance and Transcendentalist Era, a time where people believed humans were at one with nature and God, Melville chose to break the mold.


dead poet society essay transcendentalism

Transcendentalism advocated views involving isolation from society and connection to nature.

The Transcendental Club was associated with colorful members between 1836 and 1860. Among these were literary figures , , and . But the most interesting character by far was , who tried to put transcendentalism into practice. A great admirer of Emerson, Thoreau nevertheless was his own man — described variously as strange, gentle, fanatic, selfish, a dreamer, a stubborn individualist. For two years Thoreau carried out the most famous experiment in self-reliance when he went to , built a hut, and tried to live self-sufficiently without the trappings or interference of society. Later, when he wrote about the simplicity and unity of all things in nature, his faith in humanity, and his sturdy individualism, Thoreau reminded everyone that life is wasted pursuing wealth and following social customs. Nature can show that "all good things are wild and free."


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Elihu Burritt wrote essays on "Passive Resistance"that were published in his in 1854. He believed that the full power of the Gospelprecept to "overcome evil with good" had never beenfully tested by a community to subdue evils and overcome oppression;but he found a few recent examples of passive resistance successfullywithstanding oppressive force. When the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)imposed a tax on liquor to reduce drunkenness, the French navythreatened to use cannons if they did not repeal the tax on Frenchbrandy; but the people did not give in nor resist with force,and the French marines were powerless. A community at the Capeof Good Hope refused to cooperate with the British attempt tomake the country a penal settlement. Passive resistance uses thepower of the will by holding to what is good. Burritt argued itcan raise the smallest nation to the equal of the great powerson Earth, but resistance using brute force weakens the will ofa nation and subordinates it to the precarious contingencies ofthe battlefield. Conquering by moral will is to be like a God,but conquering by brute force is to be like a beast. Burritt founda greater patriotism in being courageously peaceful. He wrote,

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Throughout modern American society, the majority of youths attempt to follow a transcendental path in their everyday lives; however they find it difficult due to a loss of nature, less individuality, and conformist teachings....

Abolitionists, Emerson, and Thoreau by Sanderson Beck

They were Transcendentalists who expressed their beliefs through writings from poems to essays and they believed that “the individual was at the center of the universe” (Prentice Hall 384).