Emerson Essay, Research Paper
In American Literature many authors write about nature and how nature affects man’s lives. In life, nature is an important part of people. Many people live, work, or partake in revelry in nature. Nature has received attention from authors spanning several centuries. Their attitudes vary over time and also reflect the different outlooks of the authors who chose to discuss this important historical movement. A further examination of this movement, reveals prevalence of nature’s influence on man and how it affects their lives.
An early work in American Literature, Thanatopsis, is also one of the most influential works of nature and how it affects man. This work portrays nature as being a part of man’s life. In this work nature is rendered all around man and acknowledges the support that nature offers for many of our needs. Nature offers a “voice of gladness?[and a] healing sympathy?[to reveal our] darker musings”(4-6). These offers are an asset to man’s life but come few, and is all that nature will offer us. However, this communion with nature also confirms the fact that we are indeed nature’s creatures and are subject to its laws. As man dies our bodies must be surrendered to the earth that nourished it. Man must be “?a brother to the insensible rock/And to the sluggish clod?”(27-28), and as food for the oak. When man succumbs, he is buried in the earth, which uses his body to feed other forms of life such as: trees, grass, and plants. Along with your body, your soul is also recycled in the earth and becomes a part of nature. According to this attitude, nature is evident in one man’s life. Nature also supplied us with many amenities but then regained when man dies and returns to the earth that provided these gallantries for man.
25 years after Thanatopsis, Emerson wrote of Nature, a work that also discusses the subject of man and nature. In this work, man is an object in the middle of living nature. Nature itself draws us from dependence upon the past and invites us to a richer state of being. Do not remember the past for “[t]he sun shines today?[t]here is more wool and flax in the fields?[t]here are new lands, new men, new thoughts”(215). Which suggests that because there is always a tomorrow. Man should not focus on the present and be more concentrated on what will be happening in the future. Emerson believed that nature was beautiful and nowhere else on earth could he find the majestic settings of the macrocosm. As Emerson declares “[in] wilderness, [he finds] something more dear and connate than in streets or villages”(216). He cannot find anything more loved and kindred than in towns and cities than what he finds in nature. Unlike Thanatopsis, Emerson focuses on the living and not the defunct. He tells us that “[in] the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature”(216). Man’s nature is more beautiful than the outside of his exterior. Therefore, according to this attitude, man’s life is just a mere dot in this world of blackness.
In 1854 Thoreau wrote the short story “of Walden”, eighteen years later from the publication “of Nature” and forty-three years later from the publication of “Thanatopsis. In this work Thoreau presents an attitude of examining man’s existence in his life. When a man examines his existence he realizes what his life has come to a closure. As Thoreau declares “[he] went to the woods because [he] wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if [he] could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived”(2). Thoreau gauges his life and realizes that he has not lived at all. When considering whether he has lived or not, man returns, from his daily life, to nature for answers. This observation can only conclude that man’s life is like “?a German Confederacy?with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment”(4). The German Confederacy was a loose union of thirty-eight independent with no rule. This suggests that a man has no judgment over his life and is not held together and is very diverse. A man has no control of what has happened in his life and will never. Like Emerson’s “of Nature”, man must focus on what is going to happen and not has already happened. Yet, contrasts strongly with Thanatopsis, with the idea of dieing and then living with your soul regenerated through nature.
Cranes novel “The Red Badge of Courage” presents a final and impressive view of man and nature. The speaker in this work, a young man who contributes to the civil war, finds his participation in the battle life changing. This changing point happens when he “?went instantly forward, like a dog who, seeing his foes lagging, turns and insists upon being pursued”(94). Henry, the main character in the story, gets so engulfed in the battle he is instantly turned into a “war devil”(95). However, upon retreating from a battle in the woods and apart of nature, he stumbles upon something that changes his life. When retreating into the woods he staggers upon a chapel hidden in the woods. Inside this sanctuary in the woods he finds a “?dead man who was seated with his back against a column-like tree?[with] eyes, staring at the [him], had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish?[also] over the grey skin of the face ran little ants”(46). This complexion of this dead soldier in the woods of a church signifies that nature is evil. Nature brings out the war in man. The novel by Crane takes place in nature, this great war is in the woods. This work views nature as being detrimental, and when man is in nature for a long period of time, he becomes evil. This work compares with all of the works very strongly. Cranes view of man and nature reveals that when you die your soul becomes recycled through nature (the ants on his lips) to see that life goes on. When going into the woods to run away he reveals that he is a coward and thus has found out that he has not lived his life at all. Yet, throughout the book, Henry goes through several different phases in his life. These phases signify the “German Confederacy” and his unorganized life. This attitude of nature reveals that it has a common trait between the three other works.
In conclusion, nature, in man’s eyes, comes in many forms and sizes. Nature could be viewed many ways in the eyes’ of man. The view that I agree with the most is the note of Bryant. He believed that when one man dies, his body is precipitated along with his soul, in nature. I tend to believe that when a man dies he takes a part in the life of nature.
Bryant, William. “Thanatopsis.” Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Francis
Hodgins, Et Al. Pegusus edition. Dallas: HBJ, 1989. 153-154
Emerson, Ralph. “of Nature.” Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Francis
Hodgins, Et Al. Pegusus edition. Dallas: HBJ, 1989. 215-216
Thoreau, Henry. “from Walden.” Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Francis
Hodgins, Et Al. Pegusus edition. Dallas: HBJ, 1989. 235-237
Crane, Stephen. “The Red Badge of Courage.” Bantam. New York, NY: 1983