Ralph Waldo Emerson And Transcendentalism

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Self-Reliant Perverseness Ralph Waldo Emerson, the pioneer of the transcendentalist movement and Edgar Allan Poe, the pioneer of the American gothic movement, had ideas that sought to explain the state of mankind; ideas which were considered revolutionary for their time. It can be argued that both authors speak about something the soul longs for. Emerson encourages individuals to be self-reliant, which is to be true to oneself. On the other hand, Poe writes much darker works that deal with the human psyche and directly confront the problem of evil. Poe’s “The Imp of the Perverse” and “The Black Cat” can be read as criticisms and refutations of transcendentalist ideas, such as Emerson’s, by analyzing why the narrators commit murder and expose themselves. Emerson and Poe both incorporate personification to illustrate points in their works. In “Self-Reliance” Emerson personifies nature and utilizes this personification as a lesson mankind could learn from. Nature is content with being who it is; a rose does not concern itself with time “its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike” (Emerson 245). The lesson Emerson feels man must learn is that they “cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time” (245). Poe uses personification in a distinctly different way in “The Imp of the Perverse” as Tony Magistrale states in, “Originating Lines: The Importance of Poe”. Magistrale explains that Poe desires to understand the self-destructive nature of mankind (Magistrale 22). As Magistrale explains, Poe personifies this nature by “describing examples of this urge toward self-destruction, the narrator gives it a name: The Imp of the Perverse, as well as a hand and a voice” (22). Personification also plays a large role in Poe’s “The Black Cat”. The “spirit of PERVERSENESS” is also in this piece as a personification of the evil within man’s heart (Poe 671). The narrator also personifies his alcoholism by giving it a name “the Fiend Intemperance” and describes it as a driving force behind his evil deeds, as if it were someone convincing him to do wrong (671). Another similarity that Poe and Emerson have is that they are not afraid to critique or raise questions.
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