Nature in Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

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Nature in Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature" and Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Romantic nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson vs. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The purpose of the current paper relates directly to the major theme of nature and its romantic approach in literature. Among the writers of the specific period, one recalls the existence of two writers who, by their creations and masterpieces, became exponents of Romanticism in their local conditions and gained an irreplaceable position in the universal literature. One refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and, from the multitude of their writings, will refer to the novels "Nature" and respectively, "The Sorrows of Young Werther."

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, a new stream would make its path through the diversity of the literary approaches, simultaneous mirroring over and influencing areas such as music or art. Its name was Romanticism and, although it has been embraced by a wide range of exponents of different domains, it became significantly remarkable for its influence over writers and great thinkers, further reflecting in writings which brought a total distinctive approach and interpretation of the major literary subjects of the time.

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What Romanticism brought as an innovation are new esthetic categories which became object of writers' exploration, such as emphasizing the beauty and the grotesque in all their forms and levels of intensity. Also, it seems that this particular stream made possible the appearance of new literary species such as the historic novel, the romantic drama or the philosophic poem, forms of expressing which, by their lack, would make today's literature visibly poorer.

Essay on Nature in Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature" and Assignment

Among Romanticism's general characteristics, one should remind its orientation towards history and popular folklore, therefore, towards the past (which explain meditation and philosophical poems) and the encouragement of sensitiveness and use of imagination in detriment to logical thinking and rational filters. Also, as a product of fantasizing and free imagination, adepts of the Romantic stream are in particular attracted by vast and abstract themes and less by concrete ones, which are specific to rationality and to the Classical approach and which would further materialize in the appearance of a stream opposed to Romanticism, which is Realism, also during the nineteenth century.

Also, romantic writers focus their works on specific themes, giving great importance to human feelings and to love, in particular, as the most uplifting stare of mind that the individual can experience and which brings along variations as passionate, desperate, tragic or unshared love, dramatic endings or the pain caused by solitude and the impossibility of being with the one he/she desires.

Another major team for Romanticism that one can find with a high frequency in writers' expressions is nature, which is introduced to the reader through references towards landscapes, seasons or moments in day, night or time. An interesting approach is the correlation that usually appears between nature and the entire universe, or the central place that Romanticism gives to nature when referring to the latter.

What one follows in his analyze is to observe and explain significant similarities and differences between the Goethe and Emerson. As both writers share the same basic conception of nature, it would be interesting to analyze if Emerson's understanding of nature is a corrective to the problematic excesses of early Romantic understandings of nature, such as Goethe's. Such an association would bring the two writers together and would practically verify if Emerson's perspective in regard to nature can actually serve as a mechanism with the purpose of improving the position that Goethe's character, Werther, had in regard to life's problems.

For Emerson, nature is the central concept which also gives the title of its novel. Although he remains predominately in the Romanticism's sphere, he combines specific elements with original approaches that manage to distance him from the basic characteristics of this stream. For example, he makes a specific reference regarded to orientation towards past and history: "The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face-to-face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us and not the history of theirs?" (Emerson, p. 1)

Although Emerson encourages towards revealing other horizons but the ones indicated by history, he does not recall for rationalizing, which would be opposed to Romanticism's principles, but for internal revealing which can be achieved through meditation. Nature is the supreme force that coordinates man and it overlaps the universe itself, as the following extract expresses: "Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece & #8230; in the woods, we return to season and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes) which nature cannot repair." (Emerson, p. 3-4)

Emerson's work is largely an ode dedicated to the greatness and beauty of the nature and to its endless manners of positively interfering with the individual's existence. It subserves to mankind through four major elements: commodity, beauty, language and discipline. Towards man's unity with cosmos, with nature, soul is the central element. Emerson asserts: "A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams ... Man is the dwarf of himself" (Emerson 32)

At this point, there is a great similarity between Emerson and Goethe's work, as they both connect micro and macro levels (human', cosmos) through the element of soul. However, Goethe has a tendency, at times, to overstress the importance of nature, as he haves readers understand the impact that it had on his thinking and even on Werther's. In the German writer's opinion, nature is worthy of standing near some of the most appreciated concepts in the world, with God and love being its correspondents.

Goethe is virtually captivated by his story and proceeds with detaching the protagonist from rationality, emphasizing the importance of nature and its greatness in comparison to everything else that exists. Emerson destroys Werther's beliefs in regard to nature by claiming that nature is actually meant to serve humanity, given that the superior intelligence of people is powerful enough to have them decide what to do with nature. From Emerson's perspective, an individual like Werther would certainly be wrong in considering that nature is above all. Werther is constantly impressed as a result of witnessing natural events, putting across confidence regarding his place in the world.

Albert's character can, to a certain extent, be compared with Emerson, as they both believe that it immoral to stress the importance of nature, since doing this practically means that one would doubt man's greatness. In an attempt to contradict Albert, Werther shares his concern in regard to the difficulties that man has to deal with as a result of his position. "My friend,' I exclaimed, 'man is human, and the small amount of intelligence one may possess counts little or nothing against the rage of passion and the limits of human nature pressing upon him" (Goethe 45).

In spite of Werther's love for nature, he considers that it is not enough to keep him alive, as his pains are his and his alone. In contrast, Emerson sees nature as an escape from everyday suffering, one that acts as a tool people can use to put their troubles away. "There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair" (Emerson 4).

Werther, it seems, has not discovered one of the most important roles that nature has in society -- that of healing people's pains. Even if he appears to understand the benefits that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Nature in Ralph Waldo Emerson.  (2011, February 27).  Retrieved August 8, 2020, from

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"Nature in Ralph Waldo Emerson."  February 27, 2011.  Accessed August 8, 2020.