In this essay, I will compare the philosophies of transcendentalism and anti-transcendentalism through the writings of Thoreau and Emerson vs. Melville. In Thoreau’s excerpt of “Walden”, he tested the transcendentalist philosophy through experience. Emerson’s transcendental writing style is displayed in “Nature.” In Melville’s excerpt of Moby Dick, he exhibits anti-transcendentalism in his work.
Transcendentalist writing had to do with the human sprit and its connection to nature. Transcendentalist thinkers believed that all things that occurred in nature were supposed to happen. For example, if there were forest fire that happened naturally, it would be looked at as a good thing because the ground gets nutrients. An anti-transcendentalist would see forest-fires as an act of destruction. In Thoreau’s excerpt of “Walden”, he writes about moving to the forest to live in a cabin. He gets away from the busy world around him and secludes himself to nature.
While living out in the forest, Thoreau would take the time to enjoy the beauty of nature and come back to the cabin and write about it. In Emerson’s excerpt of “Nature”, he writes about the relationship of humans and nature. Anti-transcendentalist writing focused on the limitations and the potential destructiveness of the human sprit, rather than on its possibilities. For example, in Moby Dick Melville writes about a man’s obsession to kill a whale. Ahab wants to get his revenge because he had lost his leg to the whale in a previous encounter. Ahab’s obsession makes him not think about the safety of his crews lives and his own.
Alone with Nature Arriving at the lusciously dense forest at daybreak, you gaze at the fresh dew delicately dangling on the foliage. You stroll through the winding dirt trails towards the steady flowing water while the birds proudly recite their early morning songs. Reaching the free flowing stream you bend down and see your clear reflection in front of the orange-yellow sky. Goosebumps rise along ...
And in the end Ahab ultimately loses his life due to his desire to kill the whale. Also in Melville’s writing, there are some examples that show man vs. nature. One example was with Ahab vs. the whale. In the anti-transcendental style, it makes the whale seem like the evil one.
Another example was when Ahab and some others went onto the rowboat, and then a pack of sharks attacked them. All in all, transcendentalist writers would usually have the topic of nature in their works. Anti-transcendentalists viewed nature as vast and incomprehensible, a reflection of the struggle between good and evil. The anti-transcendentalist writers would have a sense of sin and evil in their works.