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Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature
What piece of literature "sparked" the creative energy symbolizing the American Renaissance?
1) American Scholar
2) The Divinity School Address
Give the names of two important lectures he gave at Harvard.
He is saying that people tend to take the beauty of nature for granted.
In the first paragraph, Emerson says that our attitude toward the stars would change if they appeared only once every thousand years. What point is Emerson making with this striking example?
The most valuable quality of the land is something that cannot be owned
In the third paragraph Emerson states "This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty deeds give no title." What does he mean?
Emerson says that we see our emotions reflected in nature
"Nature always wears the colors of the spirit," Emerson says in the sixth paragraph. What does Emerson mean by this statement?
Adults lose a sense of wonder at the world
"To speak truly," Emerson says, "few adult persons can see nature." Emerson sees children as having the advantage over adults when it comes to experiencing nature directly. What do people seem to lose as they grow older?
Adults can see nature, but they don't truly appreciate it the way children do
"The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of a child." What does Emerson mean?
Children see with their hearts as well as their eyes - They are full of wonder and have not yet taken the beauty of nature for granted.
Emerson says that the person who can truly see nature is like a child. Why?
To describe a different and profound way of seeing nature
What is Emerson's main purpose in this essay?
The integrity of their individual mind
What, according to Emerson, is the most sacred part of a person?
Trust yourself, and you will be strong.
"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." What does this mean?
Say what's on your mind in the strongest way that you can. Don't be afraid to speak out
"Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again . . ." What does this mean?
You must work hard to grow corn just as you must work hard to achieve your potential.
What is the point of the comparison Emerson makes between the kernel of corn and human effort?
The circumstances an individual is born into. Play the cards you were dealt.
". . . no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed upon that ploy of ground which is given him to till." What does "plot of ground" represent?
Society conspires to deny people their freedom and individuality
What is Emerson's opinion of society in this essay?
Be true to yourself; Live a meaningful life
In this essay, what is Emerson's main philosophy - in your own words?
The success of mass marketing and the mass media shows the high value Americans place on conformity.
"The virtue in most request is conformity," Emerson says. A paraphrase of this sentence might read : "The virtue (commendable quality or trait) that is most often demanded of us is that we conform to what someone else thinks." Do you think this is true today? Is conformity always negative?
Planting corn - doing good deeds and working hard; An iron string - trusting oneself; Joint-stock company - society; Shadow on the wall - consistency.
Describe what Emerson compares to these things and events: planting corn, an iron string, a joint-stock company, a shadow on the wall.
Resistance to Civil Government
What was the title of the essay that had significant influence on both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.?
He wants to give "a simple and sincere account" of himself; he knows himself best.
According to the second paragraph in "Economy," why has Thoreau decided to write about his life?
Building his own house
In this same section, what activities best illustrate Thoreau's doctrine of simplicity?
He lived in a cabin; he lived a fully and deliberately as possible; wants to live life more fully
How does Thoreau answer the questions implied in the title "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"? Why does he want to live at Walden?
He believes that progress is superficial and imaginary - (hinders individuality)
What is Thoreau's opinion of progress?
People must follow their inner voice in order not to be tyrannized by conformity
What is his attitude toward individuality and conformity?
Explains that he does not feel lonely
In the section called "Solitude," what main point does Thoreau make?
He is part of the Milky Way; he is surrounded by countless living creatures;; he feels close to the natural source of life
What argument does Thoreau present in "Solitude" to demonstrate that he is not lonely in his isolated cabin?
He learns all about them; comes to love his beans; enjoys the work; They make him feel as if he is rooted to the earth
What satisfaction does Thoreau find in the labor of raising beans in "The Bean Field"?
How does he feel about working in the fields?
I hope my readers will take only what suits them personally in my work and not distort my philosophy
a) "As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him who it fits." (p. 217)
I wanted to participate in and enjoy every experience that life has to offer
b) "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." (p. 220)
If someone lives in his or her own way, it may be because of beliefs and a destiny that differ from everyone else's. Let that person live according to his or her own convictions
c) "If man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." (p. 228)
People are controlled by what they create rather than controlling their creations
d) "We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us"? (p. 221)
People carry the potential for dramatic and beautiful change inside them - even after years of thoughtless conformity
A parable is a very brief story that teaches a moral or ethical lesson. What do you think is the lesson of the parable involving the bug in the wood table at the conclusion of Walden?
The full possibilities of life will open up to us only when we are committed to living fully
What do you think Thoreau means in his final paragraphs by these words: "Only that day dawns to which we are awake"?
Government should govern as little as possible
What view of government does Thoreau express in the opening paragraph?
A few people cause the war by using the government as their tool.
What is Thoreau's opinion of the Mexican war?
Speak out about the kind of government they want; To be one step along the route to a more perfect state.
According to Thoreau, what do people need to do if they want a better government? What is his main hope for the democracy of his time?
Slavery will begin to break down when people are arrested for protesting it; One man refusing to support slavery and going to jail for it.
What does Thoreau predict about slavery in America? How does he suggest slavery could be abolished?
He refused to pay a poll tax (that supported the Mexican War); In jail he lost respect for the State, he pities it.
Why was Thoreau put in jail? What were his feelings about the government while he was in jail?
He envisions a State that recognizes the individual's ultimate authority and accepts the principled protests of nonconformists.
At the end of the essay, what qualities does Thoreau envision in an ideal "perfect and glorious state"?
To persuade people to follow their individual conscience
What is Thoreau's primary purpose in this essay?
Although Thoreau is physically in prison, he is more free, intellectually and
spiritually, than those who are imprisoned by conformity.
a. "I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was." (p. 238)
By following his conscience and trying to improve the moral condition of his
society, Thoreau feels he has figuratively paid his taxes.
b. "I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax." (p. 238)
Effective government allows people to govern themselves
c. "That government is best which governs not at all." (p. 236)
He thinks they are hypocrites.
How are Thoreau's perceptions of his fellow citizens changed by his night in jail?
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