Nature’s influences upon the American Scholar 

Or, Discuss how the American Scholar is influenced by Nature: 

Or, How does Emerson show a similarity between Nature and the mind of the American Scholar? 


The essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) in the essay “The American Scholarplaced great emphasis on the influences of Nature on the American Scholar. The whole concept belongs to Emerson’s philosophical idea of transcendentalism, a literary movement that flourished between 1835 and 1860 in New England of America. 

The mysterious attitude of human nature 

Emerson was one of the pioneers of transcendentalism the movement. It believes that there is something in human beings that transcends human nature; it is a spark of divinity. It is similar to the concept of mysticism which beliefs in the possibility of the union of man’s soul with some higher spirit of force or deity. But Emerson’s ideas about these doctrines are not exactly similar to the ideas of others, as the essay “The American Scholar” makes it clear. 

More Notes: The American Scholar

The similarity between nature and the human soul 

The American Scholar studies the phenomena of Nature and discovers a similarity between them and his own mind. They originate from the same root–the soul of souls. He realizes that there is never a beginning, and never an end, to the inexplicable continuity of the web of God. It resembles the scholar’s own mind which is also without beginning and without end. The inexperienced mind thinks that everything is individual and has a separate existence. First, he joins two things and then thousands and discovers that all things have the same nature; there is essential unity behind the apparent diversity of things. 

Nature epitomizes the human soul 

Emerson says that, “The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of Nature.” The Scholar observes the daily phenomena of Nature, and begins to classify them. He discovers that science is nothing but the finding of analogy and identity in the most remote things. He realises that Nature is the opposite of his own soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal and the other is the print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws of his own mind. Nature then becomes the measure of his attainments. He remains as much ignorant of himself as of Nature. “Know thyself” and “Study nature” become identical for him. 

Nature as a prime source of knowledge 

Emerson’s concept of the American Scholar is unique. His ideas have some similarities with the ideas of the English romanticist, William Wordsworth, who was a pioneer in placing the greatest importance upon Nature. Nature was to him a friend, philosopher, and guide for mankind. But Emerson differs from the traditional view of the Scholar as a recluse, a valetudinarian, and a man incapable of action His Scholar is influenced by books of the past scholars, only partially, and studies Nature as a prime source of knowledge, and is a man of action who will bring about the Cultural Revolution in America and make it a leader nation, a torch-bearer to all other nations. 


In light of the above discussion, we may certainly comment that Emerson’s idea of nature and the human soul of the American Scholar is out and out philosophical and logical because nature is the power house of knowledge.  

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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