Transcendentalist VS Anti-Transcendentalist

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Transcendentalist VS Anti-Transcendentalist

Post  kathy on Wed May 13, 2009 7:52 pm

In Emerson’s and Thoreau’s writings, they emphasized the beauty and endless possibilities in nature. They showed optimism and great faith in the God within everyone that embodied the spirit of each unique individual. The dominate tone and mood of their writings were filled with hope in limitless possibilities of man and also in discovering the self’s primary wisdom – intuition (through spontaneity and instinct). While in Melville’s and Hawthorne’s works, there are signs of Transcendentalism, then more elements start to show anti-transcendentalism. Melville shows transcendentalist ideas of sharing unity with nature- the universal soul. But the difference in their belief in the unity of nature and man is that in Emerson/Thoreau’s, the universal connection is one of beauty and hope. While the connection of man and nature in Melville/Hawthorne’s writing, it is one of darkness and cynicism. Emerson / Thoreau talk about this unity with the idea that nature is in constant change and is therefore, boundless. But Melville speaks of nature (the sea and dark water) as something deadly and dark. Although the writers share transcendentalist ideas of nature, the content in which nature is discussed diverges for Melville / Hawthorne into non-transcendentalism. Also, Melville / Hawthorne include the transcendentalist idea of individualism. Ahab is a strong individual, but Ahab trails off from this element because he takes individualism too far, as in he is almost isolated from the group unless he is commanding or demanding them to do something. While in “The Scarlet Letter,” Hester is only free from the society/ humility when she’s in the woods (connecting with nature). But still, in the end of the book, there is a tragic ending which makes the mood a less hopeful one, therefore showing anti-transcendentalism.
In “Moby Dick,” there’s a feeling of Ahab wanting to out-best Moby Dick and to get revenge which ties into our pop-quiz on the most common misunderstanding of Emerson – individualism to the extreme to the point where people only care about themselves. Ahab is showing that he is being dominated by the ego-mind therefore wanting to get revenge no matter what it takes. Also, through the character of Starbuck, Melville shows conformity. Starbuck disagrees with going on this trip after he finds out the main purpose, yet he still goes along with Ahab – going against one of the main topics in Emerson and Thoreau’s writings on individualism. Also in “The Scarlet Letter,” Hawthorne shows his doubt and skeptism towards man through the character of Chillingsworth. He desires revenge and craves to bring down Hester and Dimmesdale. And although Dimmesdale does the just act by revealing the truth in the end, he still ends up dying.
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Re: Transcendentalist VS Anti-Transcendentalist

Post  Ajk on Wed May 13, 2009 8:49 pm

[quote="kathy"]
Melville shows transcendentalist ideas of sharing unity with nature- the universal soul. But the difference in their belief in the unity of nature and man is that in Emerson/Thoreau’s, the universal connection is one of beauty and hope. While the connection of man and nature in Melville/Hawthorne’s writing, it is one of darkness and cynicism. Emerson / Thoreau talk about this unity with the idea that nature is in constant change and is therefore, boundless. But Melville speaks of nature (the sea and dark water) as something deadly and dark. Although the writers share transcendentalist ideas of nature, the content in which nature is discussed diverges for Melville / Hawthorne into non-transcendentalism. Kathy this is one of the key points; how Melville views that there's destruction and darkness looming in nature. good distinguishing here.

Also, Melville / Hawthorne include the transcendentalist idea of individualism. Ahab is a strong individual, but Ahab trails off from this element because he takes individualism too far, as in he is almost isolated from the group unless he is commanding or demanding them to do something. Kathy this is quite a mastery of the Transcendentalist ideas espoused in Emerson's "Sefl-Reliance" essay, as your understanding reflects the accurate understanding of Emerson's meaning in relying on ourselves, but not as rugged individualists, isolating ourselves, but yes, instead returning to community and contributing to the greater good.

In “Moby Dick,” there’s a feeling of Ahab wanting to out-best Moby Dick and to get revenge which ties into our pop-quiz on the most common misunderstanding of Emerson – individualism to the extreme to the point where people only care about themselves. Ahab is showing that he is being dominated by the ego-mind therefore wanting to get revenge no matter what it takes.
And here you are, speaking directly to it yourself. Great high level mastery of this concept.

Also, through the character of Starbuck, Melville shows conformity. Starbuck disagrees with going on this trip after he finds out the main purpose, yet he still goes along with Ahab – going against one of the main topics in Emerson and Thoreau’s writings on individualism. Another good distinguishing point.

Kathy, good job with this finer points being distinguished.
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