Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

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Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  joannneee on Wed May 13, 2009 12:02 am

Melville and Hawthorne, contrary to popular belief, did not completely reject Transcendentalist beliefs. Melville, in Moby Dick, wrote of the hope that Ahab exhibited in his wild wish to kill Moby Dick, who took his leg. Despite all the odds, Ahab believed in the notion that he could somehow defeat Moby Dick, and this applies to the Transcendentalist belief that we may transcend our physical boundaries if we learned to become one with everything around us. This also shows the aspect of unlimited potential of Ahab, whose trust in himself eclipsed even his incapability. At the beginnings of this story, Ahab did not have any doubt that he would kill the whale – he knew it in him that he would do it, whatever it took. But yet, when Ahab faces the ruin of his boat and loses his last chances of revenge to what is deemed cruel fate, he is defeated before the ordeal is fully over. This is the diverging point between the Transcendentalist views of Emerson and Thoreau, against the anti-transcendentalist views of Melville and Hawthorne. Melville shows Ahab's loss of hope when they are approached by Moby Dick; with such a towering opposition against himself, he succumbs to the fear and the hopelessness that prevailed when parts of the prophecy came true. He drops his spear, which can also be seen as a symbol of his will to continue fighting; this exemplifies the view of Melville – unlimited potential is only until we wake up from our wishful dreaming. Perhaps if he did not begin to lose hope, or perhaps if he were not approached with the prophecy, he could have believed in himself - he was blocked by his own superstitions, and, in addition, blocked by his own mind. Both Melville and Hawthorne show the characters being broken by their own fears - they are unable to hold up to the pressures of society as well as to their defeat.

But whether or not this is "reality" is still to be debated. What we define to be reality may be only what we believe in. How do we know whether or not something is reality until we have tested other parts of our lives out? Emerson and Thoreau see the unlimited potential of people - they decide that reality is not reality until it has occurred, and until we have explored every part of ourselves. By understanding that we are a whole with everything around us, we will not be limited by our petty ego-mind and our superstitions and biases, but rather we may be able to see things as they truly are, without tagging one as reality and the other as heresy. By being optimistic, Emerson and Thoreau show a spirit that is unyielding to the negativities around us – if we could focus on the good of things, then hope would never diminish. Melville and Hawthorne, however, show human beings limited by our own minds and the society around us. They show characters succumbing to failure, to guilt – such as Dimmesdale - and unable to continue because their hopeful views on a happy and successful life are sniped by their harsh “realities”; Ahab sees the overwhelming presence of the whale and Dimmesdale is unable to live past his own guilt.

Yet it can be said that Hawthorne and Melville have not lost all hope on the human society. There will always be things that are setbacks in our lives, but as Hawthorne shows through Hester, there will always be the possibility to change, and to change your conditions, even if you are limited by your own physical capabilities. Hawthorne and Melville believed in changes that we could make as human beings – they believed in things that we could do without transcending our physical boundaries, and while this may not be the epitome of a transcendentalist belief, Melville and Hawthorne still hold some of the main Transcendentalist ideas in their works.
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Re: Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  shawanne on Wed May 13, 2009 12:15 am

...Dude, I didn't even think about a lot of that before you posted it. -headdesk- But anyways, yay for great critical thinking skills! The part explaining Ahab's transcending the physical boundaries was great~

But yet, when Ahab faces the ruin of his boat and loses his last chances of revenge to what is deemed cruel fate, he is defeated before the ordeal is fully over.

Doesn't he also like, er, go kind of insane (not /insane/ insane, er...I don't know how to say it yet, will get back to it later XD) in the end, blinded by hate and vengefulness? So like, his trust in himself wavered, and he let himself be taken over by his mind and therefore this causes his death. Ish. (Or maybe I'm reading in too much? :O)

Yet it can be said that Hawthorne and Melville have not lost all hope on the human society. There will always be things that are setbacks in our lives, but as Hawthorne shows through Hester, there will always be the possibility to change, and to change your conditions, even if you are limited by your own physical capabilities. Hawthorne and Melville believed in changes that we could make as human beings – they believed in things that we could do without transcending our physical boundaries, and while this may not be the epitome of a transcendentalist belief, Melville and Hawthorne still hold some of the main Transcendentalist ideas in their works.

Word. Very Happy
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Re: Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  Annie Fu on Wed May 13, 2009 8:05 am

Joanne! I agree, they didn’t reject transcendentalism at all. I even went so far as to call them transcendentalists in parts of my analysis Very Happy I didn’t explore the symbols as much as you did though – I like the part about how “unlimited potential is only until we wake up from our wishful dreaming.” Wow. That sounds so harsh, but so true as to what the anti-transcendentalists believed in. Anti-transcendentalists really only wants to give people a reality check, huh?
You still sound very much like a transcendentalist here Very Happy which isn’t bad – I probably do too, actually. I agree with you; Melville and Hawthorne focused more on the pessimistic side of reality. It’s as if they’re having their characters choose the more limiting path rather than embarking upon the trail to transcend their situations. Haha we actually have very similar ideas! Very Happy
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Re: Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  Ajk on Wed May 13, 2009 9:05 pm

joannneee wrote:Melville and Hawthorne, contrary to popular belief, did not completely reject Transcendentalist beliefs. Melville, in Moby Dick, wrote of the hope that Ahab exhibited in his wild wish to kill Moby Dick, who took his leg. Despite all the odds, Ahab believed in the notion that he could somehow defeat Moby Dick, and this applies to the Transcendentalist belief that we may transcend our physical boundaries if we learned to become one with everything around us. This also shows the aspect of unlimited potential of Ahab, whose trust in himself eclipsed even his incapability. At the beginnings of this story, Ahab did not have any doubt that he would kill the whale – he knew it in him that he would do it, whatever it took. Yes, this absolute belief in himself no matter the odds is Transcendentalist.

But yet, when Ahab faces the ruin of his boat and loses his last chances of revenge to what is deemed cruel fate, he is defeated before the ordeal is fully over. This is the diverging point between the Transcendentalist views of Emerson and Thoreau, against the anti-transcendentalist views of Melville and Hawthorne. Melville shows Ahab's loss of hope when they are approached by Moby Dick; with such a towering opposition against himself, he succumbs to the fear and the hopelessness that prevailed when parts of the prophecy came true. He drops his spear, which can also be seen as a symbol of his will to continue fighting; good interpreting of this symoblism, yes, this exemplifies the view of Melville – unlimited potential is only until we wake up from our wishful dreaming. Perhaps if he did not begin to lose hope, or perhaps if he were not approached with the prophecy, he could have believed in himself - he was blocked by his own superstitions, and, in addition, blocked by his own mind. Really key point, as it is the characters' beliefs that are blocking them. Both Melville and Hawthorne show the characters being broken by their own fears - they are unable to hold up to the pressures of society as well as to their defeat. So that they, in the end, do not end up transcending, right? They end up rather defeated. Hence, the Anti-Transcendentalist questioning of the validity of the Transcendentalist approach.

But whether or not this is "reality" is still to be debated. Great continuance of your discussion; you're deepening the idea. Good level of dealing with the complexity of this question. What we define to be reality may be only what we believe in. How do we know whether or not something is reality until we have tested other parts of our lives out? Emerson and Thoreau see the unlimited potential of people - they decide that reality is not reality until it has occurred, and until we have explored every part of ourselves. Which gets back to Emerson's idea in "Self-Reliance" that no person knows what they are capable of until they have tried, thus again, reinforcing the unlimited potential.Further, you've done a really good job here in breaking down this issue the way we have discussed it in class; down to how our thoughts create reality at the most basic level.

By understanding that we are a whole with everything around us, we will not be limited by our petty ego-mind and our superstitions and biases, but rather we may be able to see things as they truly are, without tagging one as reality and the other as heresy. Good work with "superstitions and biases"; excellent diction By being optimistic, Emerson and Thoreau show a spirit that is unyielding to the negativities around us – if we could focus on the good of things, then hope would never diminish. Melville and Hawthorne, however, show human beings limited by our own minds and the society around us. They show characters succumbing to failure, to guilt – such as Dimmesdale - and unable to continue because their hopeful views on a happy and successful life are sniped by their harsh “realities”; Ahab sees the overwhelming presence of the whale and Dimmesdale is unable to live past his own guilt. Ok, and again both of these characters are failing to transcend their situations, whether the external conflict of Moby Dick for Ahab, or the internal conflict of guilt for Dimmesdale. Irregardless of the nature of the conflict, still both conflicts can return to the issue of how each character then works with the conflicts/challenges in their mind. Solid job breaking this discussion down into managable units, or parts.

Yet it can be said that Hawthorne and Melville have not lost all hope on the human society. There will always be things that are setbacks in our lives, but as Hawthorne shows through Hester, there will always be the possibility to change, and to change your conditions, even if you are limited by your own physical capabilities. Hawthorne and Melville believed in changes that we could make as human beings – they believed in things that we could do without transcending our physical boundaries, and while this may not be the epitome of a transcendentalist belief, Melville and Hawthorne still hold some of the main Transcendentalist ideas in their works.
REally well done Joanne; very analytically approached and discussed.

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