Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 287

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Obviously, the overriding theme of this poem is nature, but Emerson approaches nature from a particular perspective which he wants the reader to understand. Specifically, he focuses upon the theme of what is beautiful in nature, as opposed to what is true, and how the two things interact.

Emerson is very keen to demonstrate that "nothing is fair or good alone." He does this very logically by providing three illustrations of instances when something has appeared beautiful in its natural context but, upon being removed from that context, no longer seemed as pleasing as it once was. This, Emerson indicates, is because we are supposed to appreciate the natural world as a "perfect whole." If we don't do this, then what we are seeing isn't the truth of a thing. If we bring something home with us and try to capture its beauty, then we will, inevitably, eradicate that beauty, because these things are all supposed to be interdependent.

Emerson associates this idea of beauty alone with "unripe" childhood. He suggests that it is a childish impulse in us which seeks to claim and preserve beauty, without also bringing to this an adult desire for "truth." In the final section of the poem, Emerson describes the landscape he is observing in minute detail, filling in the strokes of the pine-cones and acorns on the ground, the "eternal sky" above, and the birdsong in his ears. This sensory image seeks to present this "whole" to us, the reader, because to present anything less than the whole would now be hypocrisy. Nature, Emerson suggests, cannot be recollected in its stolen elements. All its parts must be enjoyed together, just as all humans are interdependent in order to be "good."

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 277

“Each and All” echoes the idea—which Emerson voices in many places—that things by themselves are unaffecting and even ugly but that when placed in context, usually their natural context, they become beautiful. Even putrefaction, Emerson writes, is beautiful when seen as the source of new life.

Central to the poem is the speaker’s interaction with the parts of nature. At the poem’s end, in spite of himself, the speaker interacts with the natural world—he sees the parts of nature around him, inhales the violet’s odor, and sees and hears “the rolling river, the morning bird.” Consequently, he once again becomes aware of beauty and recognizes that he is a part of “the perfect whole.” Emerson seems to be saying here that reason alone is not a sufficient guide for understanding the world of nature and humankind’s relationship to that world. The poem is also about human interaction with other humans. At least in part it deals with the idea that the interactions are so extensive that people affect other people of whose lives they are not even aware.

Central to the poem is Emerson’s idea that truth often cannot be attained through logical means or even through experience and reflection on experience. In fact, for Emerson, experience is decidedly not the best teacher. Instead, as Emerson writes in work after work, insight or intuition is often a better guide to truth than experience is. Thus, logical processes based on experience lead the narrator of “Each and All” astray. A moment of intuition communicates to him the truth: that beauty and truth are inseparable parts of the unity of nature.

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