The Romantic Era followed the Age of Reason. While the Age of Reason involved emphasis on science and rational thinking, Romanticism was the exact opposite. Romantics valued feeling and intuition over reason. They recognized the worth of the individual, and praised beauty, imagination, and innocence. Some of these writers were Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Through this paper the writer intends to present the reasons that these three authors are considered Romantic writers. Margaret Fuller demonstrated her Romantic tendencies even throughout her life.
With a genuine disgust for conformity, she went against all the views of her time on what women should be. This was shown in her work Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Here she incorporated several characteristics of Romanticism other than her obvious rebellion against conformity. “‘Frailty thy name is WOMAN. ’ ‘The Earth waits for her Queen. ’ THE connection between these quotations may not be obvious, but it is strict. Yet would any contradict us, if we made them applicable to the other side, and began also Frailty thy name is MAN.
The Earth waits for its King?
Yet man, if not fully installed in his powers, has given much earnest of his claims. Frail he is indeed,—how frail! how impure! Yet often has the vein of gold displayed itself amid the baser ores, and Man has appeared before us in princely promise worthy of his future. ” (Woman in the Nineteenth Century) This quote is an example of her praising the individual, something very common among Romantic writers.
She does not believe in the stereotyping of men or women. She also hates the fact that a man is thought to be better than a woman at all times, even when he is frailer than a woman is.
She wants women to have an equal opportunity to have a future. “…I must depend on myself as the only constant friend. This self-dependence, which was honored in me, is deprecated as a fault in most women. They are taught to learn from without, not to unfold it from within. ” (Woman in the Nineteenth Century) Here Fuller confirms another element of Romanticism that is present in her literature. She puts a great emphasis upon having faith in herself, and on her own inner experience. While some may say that it is questionable whether or not Margaret Fuller was a Romantic writer, it is obvious here that she was.
Although she believed in education, and did not focus much on nature, she also focused very much on individuality. It is probable that, if women were treated equally at her time, she would have touched upon other matters. However, being that women were not treated equally, she most likely felt that this was more of an issue of importance. Ralph Waldo Emerson had a very unique view on life for his time. This is what made him stand out as one of the most prominent Romantic writers. He believed that a true scholar would trust their own views, but consider others’ ideas as well.
However, he was very strongly against accepting other people’s views as your own. He wanted everyone to think for themselves. “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his proportion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do…” (Self-Reliance)
In this passage, Emerson conveyed his strongest belief. By alone saying “imitation is suicide,”(Self-Reliance) he shows how much he trusts his own beliefs, and that he wants others to do this as well. He wanted true scholars to realize the things he listed in this quote, and to be proud of themselves for doing them. He believed that a person could do anything if they really wanted to. “He shall see that nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal and one is print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws of his own mind.
Nature then becomes to him the measure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet posses. And, in fine, the ancient precept, ‘Know thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study nature,’ become at last one maxim. ”(The American Scholar) Emerson believed that the ideal situation for a person to be in is that of an equal balance between studying nature and knowing themselves. He thought that these two things naturally go together. This was another common element of Romanticism. He observed nature as the path to development.
He believed that there was always room for improvement and development, no matter who you were or where you were in your life. Henry David Thoreau was the most famous Transcendentalist. The work he is most known for is his book Walden. This book is about two years that he spent living in a shack by a pond in order to separate himself from the artificiality of society. Even just based upon the intent of this book you can tell that Thoreau was a Romantic writer. He incorporates several elements of Romanticism in the idea of doing this at all. He shows his dislike for progress by moving into a shack and attempting to live off the land.
He also demonstrates his desire for untainted nature. “Every morning was an equal opportunity to make my life of equal simplicity, and may I say innocence, with Nature herself. ” (Walden from Where I Lived and What I Lived For) Thoreau believed that if you simplified your life, all of your troubles would disappear. His opinion was that you could achieve innocence and a connection with nature by doing this. He also thought this should be done every day. “Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation.
Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. ” (Walden from Conclusion) Here Thoreau shows another one of his Romantic opinions. He does not want you to be too eager to progress because then you will “subject yourself to many influences. ”(Walden from Conclusion) He does not want development like that. He is saying that if you try to develop like that it will all fall apart. However, if you trust your intuition, you will be enlightened. Henry David Thoreau knew that not everyone would understand what he was trying to prove through this experience. However, he did it anyway, and he did it for himself.
He did it as a development for himself, and shared the experience with others so that they could be inspired. “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. ”(Walden from Conclusion) He wants people to realize that every day is an opportunity, and if you are not taking advantage of this opportunity, you are not really living. In conclusion, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau were all Romantic writers. They all incorporated several elements of Romanticism into their works, and their Romantic beliefs were evident in their lifestyles.
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