Ralph Waldo Emerson American Literature Analysis
Throughout his literary career, Emerson consistently advocated the idea of self-reliance, of making self the ultimate judge of things in this world. The self he celebrates, however, is not the same as the individual self, which threatens to become selfishness, but an autonomous spirit which wills to act according to universal moral laws. This spirit, which is located in all objects, may grow as a result of communion with nature.
Like many Romantics, who give nature an essential role in their intrinsic lives by treating it either as an equal partner with, or as a substitute for, God, Emerson often expresses a passion for nature, as can be seen in his famous work Nature (1836). His love for nature appears to he the expression of his heart based on nature’s utilitarian value; however, his reason tells him otherwise. In his analytical reasoning, he follows the argument of traditional idealism in conceiving nature as an ephemeral phenomenon without independent existence. As a result of the conflict between his intellect and his emotion, Emerson remains essentially indecisive as to the ontological being of nature.
From his early work Nature to the publication of Letters and Social Aims (1875), he consistently uses the image of shadows to illustrate the essence of nature. What is emphasized in an equally consistent manner throughout Emerson’s life is the utilitarian value, both spiritual and physical, of nature to...
(The entire section is 5415 words.)
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