Henry David Thoreau wrote throughout the 19th century as a romantic and a transcendentalist. Transcendentalism
is the belief that knowledge and wisdom are borne from the self and experience. Romanticism is the focus on the details and
the beauty of life. Life and nature are like a work of art that is being painted by us as people. Nature and the environment
is the canvas on which the painting is produced.
Henry David Thoreau was not only a romantic and a
transcendentalist, but he was an isolationist as well. He believed that by living alone in the woods, he could achieve a state
of tranquility and through experience he could come to better understand life and the “self.” Thoreau believed
that by testing and experiencing the ideas of his time he was truly living life.
The ideas expressed in the chapter on economics were
based on living simply and deliberately. Thoreau wanted his life to have meaning, and the meaning of life for a romantic or
a transcendentalist is to experience the world and find the “self” through nature. Thoreau expresses that one can live very easily by working a small garden
and selling the surplus. If the profit gained from selling the one’s goods are insufficient, a couple of weeks of hard
work in society would produce ample funding to live simply in the woods for a year or two. Thoreau’s house at Walden
was built by his own hand for little more than twenty-eight dollars. Thoreau questions why people work harder than necessary
to and produce mare income than they need, only to never spend the funds that they have acquired.
Thoreau loved nature and found the woods to be a home for him. He would see a home
site everywhere he looked when he was in nature. Man was meant to be a part of nature and not separate from it. Man has over
time separated himself from nature with the mindset that he is better than the other creatures, and too sophisticated to be
a part of the natural world. Thoreau embraces nature and believes that to be content we must go back to our roots in nature.
Thoreau living in the woods for two years put this idea into effect.
Romanticism is a cultural and literary movement that
took place between the years of 1820 and 1865. Romantics had a belief in the natural goodness of man, and supported the idea
that man would be at peace in a state of nature. The romantics insist that people are corrupted by civilization. They believe
that sincerity, spontaneity, faith, and emotion are all the markers of an honest individual. Creativity and nature are the
source of strength for the soul and are very important pillars of romanticism. In the mindset of the romantic limits are imaginary
and fantasy can transcend worldly mundane limits and give the soul an escape from the monotony of everyday life.
Henry David Thoreau was a romantic by definition he worshipped nature and thrived
on the minute details of life. Thoreau enjoyed life and this does not necessarily mean that he had an easy or especially fun
life; this means that he put joy into life. He made the mundane interesting by recognizing the miracles of nature. To enjoy
life is to put joy into life, where there is not joy or happiness; these things can be added by simply recognizing one’s
environment. Once the ability to see the beauty in everyday life is achieved, life becomes more fulfilling and longer. Each
second has the potential to be great if one allows it to be.
During Thoreau’s life he had many
other important adventures in life including several camping trips in Maine, and several trips to Cape Cod. On these trips Thoreau either spent his time living peacefully, writing, or giving lectures on romanticism and transcendentalism.
All three of
these activities were enjoyable to him and they all were seen as steps toward a goal in his mind. The Goal
of Thoreau is simple, it was two-fold; part one was to enjoy his personal life for himself and part two was to improve the
world, and awaken people to what is out there.