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Transcendentalism vs Anti-Transcendentalism During the years from about 1836 until 1860 an American literary movement was taking place called transcendentalism The geographical center of this movement was Concord Massachusetts and the transcendentalists included authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau Thoreaus Civil Disobedience and Emersons Self-Reliance were major works of the transcendentalist movement At the same time when this movement was taking place another movement which sought to counter-act it was also happening This movement was simply called the anti-transcendentalist movement and it was significantly influenced by an author named Nathaniel Hawthorne Hawthornes story The Scarlet Letter represents an embodiment of anti-transcendentalism Although transcendentalism and anti-transcendentalism both agree that governments are often times immoral however they differ on their views of human nature and human potential While the transcendentalist and anti-transcendentalist movements differed greatly a distinct similarity can be identified in both as evidenced in Thoreaus Civil Disobedience and Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter Thoreau along with the transcendentalists thought it was a persons moral obligation to resist an immoral government Thoreau writes in Civil Disobedience that Government is at best but an expedient but most governments are usually and all governments are sometimes inexpedient 7-9 Thoreau argues that most of the time governments are not useful for achieving a goal Hawthorne has a similar argument which he conveys in a more subtle way through the message of his story The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne writes Now good Sir our Massachusetts magistracy bethinking themselves that this woman Hester is youthful and fair and doubtless was strongly tempted to her fall-and that moreover as is most likely her husband may be at the bottom of the sea-they have not been bold to put in force the extremity of our righteous law against her The penalty thereof is death pg 65 Hawthorne uses this quote to portray the idea that the righteous laws and good government of his time was actually immoral and absurd The
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