Ralph Waldo Emerson Also known as father of Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had unique philosophies that impact our society even today. Emerson was born in Boston on May 25, 1803 to William Emerson and Ruth Emerson. As Ralph Waldo Emerson was growing up, he had a difficult life. His father died in 1811. His mother was left with no other option, but to take in boarders to support her family. The paternal aunt, Mary Mood Emerson, was a great influence in Emerson’s early life. She was a gnomic genius whose gift for succinct phrasing was descended to her nephew (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900 252).
He had an eventful life which even influenced his works. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the central figure of the Transcendental movement, not only impacted our society, but also pushed people to dream big and strive for the impossible. Emerson started school early before he was three years old at Boston Latin School in 1812. During the same year, the second war with England broke out. His mother, Ruth Emerson, took the family to Concord in 1814. Emerson entered Harvard College in 1817 where he continued to write and even become a class poet.
Emerson’s college years were a mixture of healthy social activity and intellectual; development. (Yannella 2-3). He received his B. A. in 1820, and for three years taught in his oldest brother’s private school. He disliked this job. On his aunt’s advice, he turned to the ministry. However, his studies were interrupted by his tuberculosis which led him to move to Florida and Georgia in search for a warmer climate (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900 252-253). In 1829 Emerson became a pastor of the Second Church in Boston, and in the same year he married Ellen Tucker.
She died in 1831, and Emerson quit his pastorate (“Ralph Waldo Emerson” American Writers 7). Emerson broke with the church on the issue of the rite of communion. He continued to preach elsewhere, but he never served as a regular minister again. Instead at the end of 1832, he sailed for Europe. There he met the three men whose work and ideas meant most to him, Coleridge Wordsworth, and Carlyle (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900 253). Carlyle was famous for his explosive attacks on hypocrisy and materialism, his distrust of democracy, and his belief in the power of the individual.
Emerson’s friendship with Carlyle helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy. When Emerson returned from New England, he became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, and settled in Concord Massachusetts (“Ralph Waldo Emerson” poets. org). They had four children, but only three survived. Emerson had to live and support his family, and his only way to do this was by lecturing. Every year he made a lecture tour which gradually extended farther west. When he was not on a tour, he lived very quietly, studying and reading.
He stood aside from active participation in public movements, until slavery got under his skin. This made him an abolitionist, who rejoiced on the coming of Civil War (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900 253). After sixty Emerson wrote and thought nothing new. Harvard gave him an honorary LL. D. and made him a trustee. People loved him. He traveled like a king to California and the again to Europe and to Egypt. He was nearly eight when her died of pneumonia in 1882 (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900 254).
Emerson is a person who believed in many philosophies like Intuition, Individualism, Idealism, and self- reliance. These philosophies show up throughout his work, “Self Reliance. ” He tries to use his work to convey a powerful message. “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men, -that is genius” (Emerson 194). In this quote Emerson displays the theme of Intuition. He basically says that a person should follow his thoughts and dreams. Another theme displayed in “Self Reliance” is individualism.
It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. (Emerson 195) He says that society demands you to conform, but you have to think for yourself. The theme of idealism is also conveyed in “Self- Reliance. ” “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the man hood of every one of its members.
Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater” (Emerson 195). In this quote Emerson explains that society wants you to just be like them. Being a part of the society, you have to surrender you beliefs and dreams. He shows that society ignores the special part of each person. However it takes a brave person to ignore society and follow their dreams. “It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine.
A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace” (Emerson 195). The last theme is self- reliance. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine Providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events” (Emerson 195). This quote basically says that trust yourself; you have infinite amount of potential. As you can see, Emerson believed that ordinary people had limitless potential.
He wrote “Self-Reliance because he wanted people to push themselves. He wanted to people to acknowledge that they have the freedom to achieve and do anything they want. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the founder of the Transcendental movement. He embraced optimism, individuality, and mysticism. Emerson was one of the most influential figures in the nineteenth century (“Ralph Waldo Emerson” NCLC 274). Emerson has had a major impact on the world, and everyone look up to him. In the words of critic Parkes, “Emerson’s virtues were of a kind that only develop in a long- established and well- ordered society.
His self-assurance, his public spirit, his sensitiveness to moral values were the fruit of a social organism more stable and more compact than any that now exists in either Europe or America. ” (121) Emerson is like a role model for people, and evil does not exist in anywhere in Emerson. Frost points out the same thing, “I have friends it bothers when I am accused of being Emersonian, that is, Monist, for whom evil does not exist, or if it did exist, needn’t last forever” (12). Emerson was a man who was really connected to god, and thought all things were divine.
Santayana acknowledges, The traditional element was this rather an external and unessential contribution to Emerson’s mind; he had the professional tinge, the decorum, the distinction of an old- fashioned divine; he had also the habit of writing sermons, and he had the national pride and hope of a religious people that felt itself providentially chosen to establish a free and godly commonwealth in a new world. For the rest, he separated himself form the ancient creed of the community with a sense rather of relief than of regret. (38) Emerson has inspired many writers, and poets. People look up to him and his philosophies.
Emerson’s philosophy may be found elsewhere, either in the European and Oriental sources where he found his inspiration, or in writing of others of the New England group influencing and influenced by him. It was Emerson’s function to synthesize concepts, and to weave them into a fabric strong enough to serve as a sail against the winds of opposing doctrine. Brook Farm, The “Dial,” the Saturday club, and everything Emerson belonged to is gone, but the spirit that informed them is permanently part of the American heritage, and that spirit is primarily Emerson’s (“Emerson, Ralph Waldo” American Authors 1600-1900).
Emerson’s spirit is still alive today, and it still influences many people to follow their dreams. ? Works Cited “Emerson, Ralph Waldo. ” American Authors 1600-1900. Eds. Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1973. 252-255. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “From Self- Reliance. ” Literature Georgia Treasures. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Douglas Fisher, Beverly Ann Chin, and Jacqueline Jones Royster. Ohio: McGraw- Hill, 2011. 194-195. Frost, Robert “On Emerson. ” Emerson. Ed. Milton R. Konvitz and Stephen E. Whicher. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1962. 12-17. Parkes, Henry B. “Emerson. ” Emerson.
Ed. Milton R. Konvitz and Stephen E. Whicher. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1962. 121-135. “Ralph Waldo Emerson. ” American Writers II. Ed. Leonard Unger. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974. 1-24. “Ralph Waldo Emerson. ” NCLC. 17. Ed. Janet Mullane. Michigan: Gale Research, 1988. 274-311 19 vols. “Ralph Waldo Emerson. ” Poets. org. Academy of American Poets, 2012. 18 April 2012. . Santayana, George. “On Emerson. ” Emerson. Ed. Milton R. Konvitz and Stephen E. Whicher. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1962. 32-38. Yannella, Donald. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982. 1-28.