Transcendentalism; Positive or Negative

Topics: Dead Poets Society, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism Pages: 3 (931 words) Published: May 23, 2014
Melanie Milam
Honors English II
Mrs. Nelson
2 April 2014
Transcendentalism; Positive or Negative
Transcendentalism is a social and philosophical movement that taught five tenets of how to live life. Those tenets being; Everything reflects the divine soul, God is in nature and man, use your intuition to relate to God and nature, be self-reliant and express your individualism, and be spontaneous and seize the day. Thoreau and Emerson reflect all of these tenets in their poems, and they’re shown in the character Mr. Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society. He teaches the kids at this school all about transcendentalism in English class, and throughout the movie you see the positive and negative effects of his teachings. Transcendentalism shows the importance of spirit over matter and to go with what you want to do, even if it goes against what society does or believes. Doing what transcendentalist believe can be a strength, but it can be a weakness as well.

“Things do not change; we change” (Thoreau). One of the biggest strengths of transcendentalism is change, because change is good. If it weren’t for guys like Emerson and Thoreau, society could run our lives more than it already does. Emerson says that children are more transcendentalist then adults because they still see the beauty in the world. By the time you become an adult, you see the world less beautiful because you’ve probably been hurt in some way. In today’s society everyone wants to fit in but if you conform, what are you doing to society? You’re just adding to it and making it worse. In the Dead Poet Society, Mr. Keating encourages the boys to seize the day. But on the contrary, all the other teachers in the school think why fix something that isn’t broken. They feel that the way they’ve been doing this has worked for years so don’t change it now. Although transcendentalism actions can be good, it can also be very detrimental to the individual and society.

When Keating is explaining poetry to...
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