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Where are there strong ideas about Transcendentalism in the first chapter of Thoreau's...

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volleyball96 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 12, 2012 at 5:52 AM via web

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Where are there strong ideas about Transcendentalism in the first chapter of Thoreau's Walden?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:30 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that the opening chapter of Thoreau's work provides many examples of where his advocacy for Transcendentalism is evident.  In the opening lines, Thoreau quotes and marvels at the "Bramins," a direct reference to a more "Eastern" approach to spirituality and human consciousness.  This is reflective of Transcendentalism's idea to bridge human experience with an emotional and spiritual frame of reference.  At the same time, Thoreau continues in the first chapter to bring this more in line with his idea that individuals must embrace a non-conformist view of reality in order to be free, embodying a tenet of Transcendentalism:

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil?...Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?

This quote speaks to the Transcendental notion of not living a life of conformity.  For Thoreau, not being bound to a life of conformist "chains," in which one loses their individuality and sense of uniqueness is something that is its own intrinsic good.  This quote brings out this important concept in Transcendentalism.

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