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The American Romantic Movement

Henry David Thoreau

Edgar Allan Poe
Henry David Thoreau
Harriot Beecher Stowe
Walt Whitman
Emily Dickinson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Margaret Fuller
Herman Melville
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving

Stream 2

A series of events in the life of Henry David Thoreau.




     He was born on July twelfth 1817 in Concord Massachusetts. In 1833 Thoreau enrolled in Harvard college, once he graduated he began to teach at his old academy, but he quits after when he is required to administer corporal punishment. Soon after this time he starts a private school with his brother John. In 1840 the first issue of the Dial is published. In 1842 Henry’s brother dies of lock-jaw caused by tetanus. 1845 was the year that Thoreau began to build his house at Walden Pond. But it wasn’t until 1854 that Walden was published. Thoreau died on May 6, 1962 (Bloom, Harold Henry David Thoreau.)




Commentary on Walden

Thoreau lives at Walden for about two years and throughout his stay there he experiences his “self.” One’s self is not the outward expression that we are known by to others, but it is that inner person that can only be contacted through isolation. Thoreau theorizes that if man were to become unconcerned with his outward person, and only follow and live by the needs and desires of the self, society could live and thrive in a natural state. A state of nature as Locke calls it, our morals and innate

ethics would govern our actions. Alone in the woods one is stripped of their expression, because there is no one to express ideas and thoughts to besides oneself. If there is no one or no society to force fake expression what is found is the real and true self. This self un-tethered by any outside force is peaceful and calm, because emotional triggers that other people cause are non-existent.





Henry David Thoreau Essay

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.



List of works
The Maine Woods
Cape Cod
A Yankee Canada

Author not available, THOREAU, HENRY DAVID., The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth

Edition 2005.


Bloom, Harold, Henry David Thoreau. Modern Critical Views, Chelsea House

Publishers, New York and Philadelphia. (1987)


Henry David Thoreau, Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005
   © 1997-2005 Microsoft Corporation


Thoreau, Henry David. Thoreau, Collected Essays and Poems. Literary Classics of the

United States; New York, NY: (2001)


.Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Civil Disobedience. Paul, Sherman. University of

Illinois: (1854).


Wilson, George. Moss, Joyce. Literature and Its Times. United States of America: