Change Throughout The Romantic Period Essay, Research Paper
In general, American literature during the first half of the 19th century is categorized
under the Romantic Movement. The movement began in an Era of Good Feeling , when
Americans felt proud of their young and rapidly expanding country. The good feelings are
reflected in William Cullen Bryant s poems. The rise of Transcendentalism brought about a
change in attitude and philosophy to a more critical and analytical tone. Finally, toward the
end of the Romantic Movement, writers such as Herman Melville became anti-
transcendentalist. The changes in language and philosophy during the Romantic Movement
are in the writings of Bryant, Emerson, and Hawthorne.
In the early Romantic Period, people felt proud of their country as it expands
westward. Literature, such as Bryant s poems, was also optimistic. In Thanatopsis , though
the tone is elegiac, the recurring themes are optimistic. God is seen in love, truth, liberty, and
justice. Human progress is viewed as a good thing. The narrator learns a lesson from the
determination of the fowler to carry on despite its toils Thus, the waterfowl is a fairly noble
image. In both poems, Bryant presents some images and deduces themes from them.
As the Era of Good Feeling passed and the frontier disappearing, tensions arose
between regions of the country. Again, these changes are reflected in literature. Ralph
Waldo Emerson wrote his poems and essays with many descriptions and observations. In
Ode , numerous images and descriptions are used to urge men to live for friendship and
love. He also feels the state should follow men, not vive versa. Emerson s writings are much
more critical and analytical of society than earlier writers.
In the latter stages of the Romantic Movement, authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne
opposed transcendentalism. They felt that it was too optimistic and na ve. Hawthorne saw
the inherent evil in man and human progress, especially scientific progress. In Rappacini s
Daughter , Dr. Rappacini and his seemingly wonderful garden is really a symbol of evil. His
daughter Beatrice, though beautiful, is a living poison. When given an antidote that symbolized life, she dies. Like other anti-transcendentalists, Hawthorne wrote about sin and evil in men.
Throughout the Romantic Period, change can be seen through three sub-movements: early Romanticism, Transcendentalism and anti-Transcendentalism. The views on life became gradually from positive to negative. Language and technique have also evolved. Writers became more descriptive and used more methods to enrich their descriptions. Overall, writers saw more and more evil in man as the Romantic Movement progressed.