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Why does Alcott call “Transcendental Wild Oats” a fable? Do you think she is arguing against Transcendentalism?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I don't believe that Alcott is arguing against Transcendentalism, per se, but rather she is taking issue with the men in her "utopian" community who prefer to focus on philosophy at the expense of survival. They seem to want to sit around philosophizing all day rather than doing the hard work required by the Massachusetts land to keep people's bodies alive. It isn't enough to merely sustain one's mind or one's soul: people need to eat. Herein lies the moral of Alcott's fable.

The narrator says that most of the men "were so busy discussing and defining great duties that they forgot to perform the small ones." This kind of behavior is certainly not part of Transcendentalism—Henry Thoreau and Waldo Emerson, for example, did not make the same kind of egregious mistakes that the men at Fruitlands made. Thoreau, in fact, tended his own garden (and ate the animals he caught), believing that this kind of work—making the earth say "beans" instead of "grass," as he put it—was so important to...

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