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I'm writing an essay about compare and contrast of Emerson and Thoreau.  Could some...

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mvn2351 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 1, 2010 at 2:36 PM via web

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I'm writing an essay about compare and contrast of Emerson and Thoreau.  Could some one give me an idea?

I'm writing an essay about compare and contrast of Emerson and Thoreau.  Could some one give me an idea?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 1, 2010 at 3:12 PM (Answer #2)

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You may get lots of perspectives and insights on this question, so I'll share mine and you can collect plenty of other data from others with which to write.  These two authors, Emerson and Thoreau, are much easier to compare than to contrast, I think.  Both are writers and proponents of Transcendentalism--the belief that man, by studying nature and examining self, can transcend his humanity and become one with God.  Emerson is older, and Thoreau's stay on Walden Pond actually takes place on Emerson's family property. 

Their themes are similar:  trust yourself, know yourself, be yourself; slow down and "simplify, simplify, simplify"; examine nature to find truths about yourself; human ingenuity will always show itself; trust self before government; man is inherently good.

Thoreau, it seems to me. spends more time writing about the "self" than Emerson, while Emerson is more interested in how the "self" does not need to fit in to the structures of society and government.  Both, though, are proponents of placing your trust in your self rather that in others or in institutions--a concept antithetical to the Christian faith which believes man's sinful nature must be transformed.  I've attached an excellent enotes site below for more information and insight on transcendentalism, the philosophy which connects these two authors. 

Lori Steinbach

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 6, 2010 at 3:25 AM (Answer #3)

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I would agree with #2: there are clearly far more comparisons than there are contrasts. Both Emerson and Thoreau were part of the same philosophical movement, the Transcendentalists, and were both key authors who did much to create and sustain the Transcendentalist movement. You might like to focus on the theme of optimism in their work - both of them had tremendous optimism in the human spirit, and a key theme of course was helping man to reconnect with nature and thus gain a simpler understanding of life.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:55 PM (Answer #4)

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Try to think about what they have in common and what they have that is different. Not just about their lives but about their works as a whole, to see if you can draw some easy compare and contrast ideas to work with. Find out if they had written on the same topic or idea to give you some initial thought about what they were trying to say.

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