Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Opinion on Nature Rhetorical Analysis

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, philosopher, and poet who was at the center of Transcendentalism, a social movement in the nineteenth century. This movement flourished in response to the Enlightenment era that heavily focused on reason, logic, and science. While the Enlightenment era did lead to technological and industrial advances that were beneficial, Emerson was able to see the potential dangers that could result and the harm it would cause to humanity.

He believed it would cause a barrier between ourselves and the beauty of nature in the world around us. In his essays, “Nature” and “Self-Reliance” he discusses the beauty in the nature around us.
In his essay, “Nature”, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes man’s relationship to nature and to God. Early on, he describes himself as a “transparent eyeball” (pg). In this passage, he expresses his view that nature is purity. Emerson believes being in pure nature brings mankind closer to the way God intended life to be. Through nature man and God are brought together.

Emerson starts with a description of one who has the ideal relationship with nature, “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood” (pg). Emerson is saying that man needs to retain wonder of nature, a quality often lost as a person ages. People become too distracted by petty conflicts that in Emerson’s eyes, are ultimately insignificant.

Emerson states that “In the woods we return to reason and faith” (pg.) He is saying that when separated from human civilization we are pure. Without any distractions, we are able to see the world as it is most true. The world is as we as individuals choose to believe it. Man came from nature; in order to see the truth we have to be in a place that is not corrupted by humanity. Man returns to a simpler place, and thus is able to see clearly. He sheds the limitations and impairments of artificial society. Nothing obstructs man from practicing whatever he desires, thus bringing him closer to whom he worships. Man appreciates the beauty and the one who created it.

Emerson then says “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair” (pg). He seems to feel at one with nature. Emerson sees the serenity and peace and realizes how insignificant all of his life’s problems are. He believes that there is no problem nature is incapable of remedying. As the saying goes, “Time heals all wounds.” Emerson’s words seem to echo that. He seems almost completely careless about all his former petty concerns.

His next remark, “Standing on the bare ground, – my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, – all mean egotism vanishes”(pg.) He feels free of the bars society has constructed, he is free of all concerns and worries. The “infinite space” he describes indicates a place with no restrictions, where he can be as he ought to, to see the beauty and grace of nature. Emerson also notes that selfishness dissolves as the figurative big picture is made visible. By letting his mind wander, Emerson was able to gain perspective and to see the world as a whole.

The final sentence of the passage, “I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God” (pg). Emerson is trying to reconnect with God by being like him, using nature as a vehicle. Nature is the rope that can tie man and God together.

Emerson compares himself to God and sees himself as inheriting the power to see all from God. Nature gives him the link to spirituality.
Emerson believes that by forgoing selfish desires and abandoning the spiritually corrupt and restrictive ways of modern civilization, a person can free himself of all worries and problems; by being in pure nature the flame of spirituality is re-ignited. Emerson’s enlightenment in the woods and his appreciation of natural beauty is quite profound. By becoming reconnected to the innocence, beauty and purity of nature Emerson had a revelation. He found himself closer to God.

Emerson writes, “In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods is perpetual youth”(pg). Emerson uses this quote to demonstrate how nature can make humans and the world young and natural again.

He uses a simile when comparing the human to a snake in order to emphasize how nature renews life and brings energy to everyone. The snake shedding its skin symbolizes the new beginning and beauty in life, in which one can shed off the old, wrinkled past and emerge in a beautiful and brand-new mind and heart. It also provides a sense of rebirth, seeing how the snake shedded off the old to reveal the new. Emerson then uses imagery to convey a sense of a man that has been washed anew by nature itself. This shows that nature has the ability to create beauty through renewal and regeneration.

Emerson argues that if nature is allowed to take over, peace and tranquility will come. Nature having the ability to bring tranquility will restore greatness in the world because peace and prosperity are the only times where the world succeeds in creating many new ideas and inventions.

A third example of how nature can restore greatness in the world is its ability to bring equality to humankind. This is shown when Emerson describes the relationship between humans of different class and type in nature. Towards the middle of his essay, Emerson explains his transcendental ideas about nature by lifting himself above everything while in nature to the level of God. He describes that in nature, everything is equal.

Emerson writes, “The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,-master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance” (13-14). Emerson emphasized the beauty of equality with his quote. He first uses imagery to picture a scene of equality, where there are no class hierarchy or distinctions. In nature, everyone is equal, and nature enforces that rule by treating everyone equally.

The scene where people are friends and where master and servant are equal demonstrate the power of nature to transform situations from hatred into one of friendliness and equality. Emerson also appeals to pathos by using our desire to have freedom and equality to emphasize that in nature, that desire could be real. In nature, unlike the civilized world, no one can discriminate or judge other people. Nature acts as an ambivalent and neutral being, allowing everyone to show their expression and ideas equally and freely.

Lastly, Emerson’s image of equality provides a positive connotation because it highlights the brightness and success of nature creating and maintaining equality. Emerson argued that equality would eliminate many problems in the world, thus restoring greatness and pride. In today’s environment, inequality can be found everywhere, from first-world to third-world countries. Emerson argues that if nature can be used to solve inequality, it will slowly and gradually disappear, thus resulting in a greater society that has very few, if any problems with inequality and discrimination. Today, the United States is facing massive inequality.

Discrimination, racial profiling, and many others are often seen in everyday life. Similarly, poverty is forcing millions around the world, due to poor social structure and mismanagement by government officials, who sometimes turn a blind eye to the majority of the people. Emerson argues that if the people instigating the discrimination will go into nature, they will discover that nature does not discriminate anyone like they do. Instead, nature treats everyone as fair and equal. Emerson uses various rhetorical devices to emphasize nature’s ability to restore greatness to the world.

Nature’s value is its ability to bring a world filled with despair back to its original glory. Nature can restore beauty by making the world young again through pure and natural ways. Nature can also revive tranquility by stopping conflict and bring prosperity to war-ridden countries.

Lastly, nature can enforce equality by providing an unbiased view to individuals. Emerson’s essay is important in understanding the world and the importance of nature. His essay was instrumental in fueling the transcendentalist movement in his life and shaping the environmental movements we have today. Without his essay, the environment could be neglected for centuries, to the point where everything is irreversible.

Every event of nature becomes a lesson for man in order for his soul to learn and to nourish itself spiritually. Man is inspired by nature as a moral being by following the principles of nature.

It is crucial for man to recognize the existence of a spirit in nature, and man must build up his own spirituality by having a different view of nature. Man will be able to understand and answer those questions that plague his mind about the order of universe when he experiences the world that surrounds him. Once man recognizes his part in creation, and how nature is an expression of the divine, then he will find his purpose in life. The key to divine knowledge is held by man, and man should find this knowledge by using the keyhole found in nature.


Cite this paper

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Opinion on Nature Rhetorical Analysis. (2020, Sep 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/ralph-waldo-emersons-opinion-on-nature/



in what ways does emerson connect nature humankind and god?
Emerson believed that nature was a reflection of the divine and that humans could connect with God through their experiences in nature. He saw nature as a source of spiritual inspiration, and believed that by immersing oneself in its beauty and wonder, one could achieve a deeper understanding of the divine.
what did ralph waldo emerson believe in?
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in the individual and in the power of the individual to think for him or herself.
what is nature by emerson about?
Nature by Emerson is about the relationship between humanity and the natural world. It is also about man's place in nature and the harmony that exists between the two.
which view of nature does emerson take?
Emerson believed in re-imagining the divine as something large and visible , which he referred to as nature; such an idea is known as transcendentalism, in which one perceives a new God and a new body, and becomes one with his or her surroundings.
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