Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism Essay.
In the mid-1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson created a belief called Transcendentalism. He wrote the essay, “Self Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau, another Transcendentalist wrote an essay called, “Walden. ” Both works of literature focus on the Transcendentalism belief. In “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne reveals both Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism through the attitudes of the characters. Therefore, “The Minister’s Black Veil” can be compared and contrasted with both “Self Reliance” and “Walden. ” During the 1830s and 1840s, Transcendentalism was influenced mostly by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When the idea was first created, Emerson and a small group of people got together to discuss philosophy, religion, and literature. This group of people became known as the Transcendental Club. The Transcendentalists believe in the essential unity of all creation, the innate goodness of man, and the supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths. They also stress the importance of nature and that all forms of being, God, nature, and humanity, are spiritually united through a shared universal soul.
In contrast, the idea of Anti-Transcendentalism was first established by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Anti-Transcendentalism focused on the limitations and potential destructiveness of the human spirit rather than its possibilities. They also believe that people have the potential to do bad things in their life and that God should be on a higher level than society. In the short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the minister, Parson Hooper, is a well-respected and peaceful man, however his congregation becomes eerie when he wears a black veil over his face. The reverend is never bothered to know that people see him as a different person.
“Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman” (275). Similarly, in “Self-Reliance,” Emerson throughout, explains to be your own person, and not to have others define who you are. “Accept the place the divine providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events” (242). Emerson also says, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance: that imitation is suicide…” (242). Here, Emerson does not believe in conformity. He also states, “To be great is to be misunderstood…” (242).
This quote means that people with new ideas are often not understood by the general public. Emerson’s quote compares to Parson Hooper because Hooper was a good clergyman; however, he was misunderstood because he wore the black veil. In Thoreau’s essay, “Walden,” he explains the belief of connecting spirituality with nature. He says that one should think freely, learning to understanding more and being able to make further conclusions about life. “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer” (258). Parson Hooper heard “a different drummer” and followed his own way of life.
The minister did not want to be like his congregation, he wanted to be his own person. Therefore, Parson Hooper was in fact a Transcendentalist. Parson Hooper’s congregation was all alike. They thought that their minister was strange for wearing a black veil over his face. All of the people in the society were all similar to each other, there were no differences. However, they felt uncomfortable when they saw Parson Hooper just because of his black veil. They believed in conformity and individuality, which contrasts with Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and Thoreau’s “Walden.
” In Hawthorne’s story, a lady says, “How strange that a simple black veil, such as any woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper’s face! ” (270). Reiterating the fact that the minister’s congregation was extremely wary of this black veil that Parson Hooper wore. However, at the end of the story, a man says, “I look around me, and, lo! On every visage a Black Veil! ” (276). This quote means that one person out of the entire anti-transcendentalist society realizes that everyone has something to hide in life, people do not always lead a perfect life.
Transcendentalism is a belief that the human spirit and the relationship between nature and its connection is humanity, while Anti-Transcendentalism focused on the potential of people doing bad things. In Hawthorne’s short story, Parson Hooper is his own person in wearing the veil comparing with Emerson and Thoreau’s essays of Transcendentalism and Hooper’s congregation is all the same which make them the Anti-Transcendentalists. All three writers clearly express their similar or different views on individuality through their literary works.