Introduction to Nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature exemplifies Emerson’s intellectual interests and literary style. Emerson was an American scholar, writer, and philosopher who became a pivotal figure of American Romanticism and of the transcendentalist movement, both of which flourished in the mid-nineteenth century. Much as Romanticism favored the experience of the individual artist, transcendentalism encouraged people to realize their full potential and consider the mysteries of the universe on their own, without the corrupting influence of modern society.

In 1836, Emerson published Nature, one of his most iconic essays. The essay argues for self-determination and solitary reflection, which Emerson believes are essential for the development of one’s sense of personal identity. Nature is an integral part of this process, creating an ideal space for individual meditation. Moreover, nature is to be cherished as a source of life and beauty.

A Brief Biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was a writer, philosopher, poet, and essayist whose works helped establish and form the intellectual basis of the nineteenth-century transcendentalist movement. Emerson was one of five siblings to survive into adulthood. He lost his father at a relatively young age and would lose several of his siblings to illness and other circumstances as he grew older. Indeed, death seemed to follow Emerson throughout his life, and he also outlived both his first wife and several younger friends and students, including Henry David Thoreau.

Emerson was raised primarily by his mother and aunt, both of whom heavily influenced his religious and philosophical beliefs. After graduating from Harvard University, Emerson briefly entered the clergy, but he eventually began to resent the formalities of the church. It was at this point that he began traveling the world and making a name for himself as a lecturer, philosopher, and writer. Emerson’s early adulthood aligned with the rise of the Lyceum movement in the United States, which was an organized effort to promote public education through lectures and other forms of intellectual entertainment. Emerson is believed to have delivered nearly 1,500 lectures over the course of his life, ranging across such subjects as science, nature, religion, abolition, and beyond. He was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most sought-after speakers of the day, and several of his most famous lectures, including “Nature” and “Self-Reliance,” are in continued publication today. One of the core themes of Emerson’s lectures and writings was individuality and personal morality. Emerson felt that looking to an organized church or government was a means of corrupting one’s own individual moral compass, and both he and his transcendentalist followers advocated for adherence to so-called natural laws rather than formal ones.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nature

Nature

Emerson feels that, though a human being might own a piece of property or a plot of land, no one can truly own nature itself or the really significant things that nature can offer us: its beauty,...

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 3:01 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Emerson suggests, in the first chapter of Nature, that when we talk about nature as he is—describing the “kindred” relationship between nature and the human mind, that the wisest person can learn...

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 1:38 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson laments the conformity imposed upon students in the education system. Emerson feels that people are brought up to perceive the world exactly as the ancients...

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 3:40 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In chapter 1 of his essay Nature, Emerson writes, The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relationship between man and the vegetable. Emerson...

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 1:20 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Nature shows the importance of nature to the transcendental mindset. Borrowing heavily from the Romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth, Emerson finds the divine source alive in nature....

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 12:27 pm (UTC)

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Nature

The mood of a piece of writing is the feelings or emotion it conveys. Emerson's point in the paragraph in which this sentence appears is that the pleasure or emotion nature evokes is based on a...

Latest answer posted May 5, 2021, 12:04 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Emerson sees nature as something divine and original in the universe. It is our true state. He suggests that as children, having not had many years in constructed societies and unnatural...

Latest answer posted May 2, 2021, 1:01 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Though Emerson spends much of his essay examining man's relationship with nature, and the actions humankind must take to truly appreciate and align with nature, nature itself is an active character...

Latest answer posted May 2, 2021, 1:36 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In the introduction to his series of essays entitled Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson provides his reasons for writing the work. He explains that individuals spend too much time looking at the past...

Latest answer posted May 2, 2021, 7:29 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Emerson's chief suggestion about the poet's appreciation of the natural world is that the poet's view of nature is one which does not take into account the trappings of modern society, within which...

Latest answer posted May 4, 2021, 12:12 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Nature makes Emerson feel as though he has achieved true solitude, as it is not enough to simply seclude oneself in one's house. One must actually remove oneself from all trappings of society,...

Latest answer posted May 2, 2021, 3:53 pm (UTC)

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Nature

Emerson suggests that in order for a person to actually achieve a state of solitude, they must remove themselves not only from society as a whole but from their own "chamber" or their own lives. He...

Latest answer posted May 4, 2021, 11:15 am (UTC)

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Nature

Emerson actually suggests that there are multiple unremarkable events which could cause him to feel what he calls a "perfect exhilaration." The example he gives is of an occasion when he was...

Latest answer posted May 4, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson employs both a philosophical tone to appeal to his readers' intellect and a poetic tone to delight their emotions. Let's look at a couple of examples of each. The...

Latest answer posted May 3, 2021, 9:51 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Nature

In Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of the stars as a prime example of the natural world and its relationship with and effects on human beings. Emerson proposes a scenario for his readers to...

Latest answer posted May 3, 2021, 5:44 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the intensity of nature when one fully understands it. He observes that a person who is properly at one with nature will be filled with a "wild delight"...

Latest answer posted May 4, 2021, 11:10 am (UTC)

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Nature

This quote appears in chapter 1, in which Emerson briefly outlines the values of human communion with nature that he will elaborate on in the rest of the essay. He finds the solitude nature affords...

Latest answer posted May 3, 2021, 12:17 pm (UTC)

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Nature

In Nature, Emerson discusses communing with the natural world in the woods. He states, first, that most people interact with the woods on a superficial level. As for himself, however, he...

Latest answer posted May 2, 2021, 11:24 am (UTC)

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Nature

In his chapter called "Beauty," Emerson outlines the three aspects of beauty: the physical, the spiritual, and the intellectual. First, he calls physical beauty the beauty of "simple perception."...

Latest answer posted May 3, 2021, 1:39 pm (UTC)

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Nature

The stars are such a common sight that we take them for granted. This is what Ralph Waldo Emerson implies in Nature. Yet if the stars appeared “one night in a thousand years,” people would look at...

Latest answer posted May 3, 2021, 1:46 pm (UTC)

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Summary