Literature Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

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

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,249 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

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...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 637 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,269 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial