TheNature of Sin in the Works of Concord Writers
TheBible defines sin as a negative influence on our mind (Rom. 1:28) andour consciousness (1 Tim. 4:2), the sides of our identity. Therefore,our sin nature has a negative effect on our identity. People’s sinnature impacts us to sin (Rom. 5:12). Inthe works of Concord Writers, such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne,can be traced a direct link with a theme of the sin nature. Some ofthem reveals this theme straight, others through different situationsand one need to think and make own conclusions. Such a notion as“Concord Writers” appeared in the history of American literaturedue to a small town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. During1837-1861 this town was a literary center. It was because of itsprominent citizen Ralph Waldo Emerson and a group of like-mindedwriters. They were representatives of the philosophical movementcalled transcendentalism. The basic ideas of transcendentalism:social equality of people, equal before God, a spiritualself-improvement, closeness to nature, a cleansing from the humanmaterial interests. The Christian religion was transformed into a setof moral ideals that do not require for its implementation the churchinstitution. Nevertheless, being Puritans, the writers took ideasfrom their religious surroundings. The authors draw a line betweensociety and sins. The nature of sin is in vicious society, wherematerial roughly superseded perfect.
Emersonand rejection of values of bourgeois society
Themain ideologist of transcendentalism was Ralph Waldo Emerson. He wasraised in the tradition of New England Puritanism, whichsignificantly affected the formation of his views. In an effort toovercome the limitations of Puritan thought, Emerson remained in thepositions of idealism. The idealism of Emerson was a reaction to thedominance of rough material, mercantile spirit characteristic israpidly gaining strength of capitalism. It identified the criticalfocus of his work. Emerson`s philosophy was based on the primacy ofthe spirit over matter. His works are expressing dissatisfaction withAmerican society, mired in utilitarianism, disfigures the humanperson, which has some value for the society only as an object ofbenefiting. The ability to implement it, he connected with the moraland spiritual perfection of the individual. To begin, he thought, itis not necessary to change the external environment, as a resultwould have changed the content of social life, and, on the otherhand, with the transformation of the spirit, which will ultimatelylead to a change in society. (Buell17)
Truth,which the society is guided, is false, so the support for thetransformation a person could find only in oneself. A man must rejectall the concepts, adopted by the society and to listen to what innervoice tells. Thus, would accomplish his introduction to the higher,transcendent truths and values, immune to the corrupting influence ofsociety. The break with the ideology of hoarding and utilitarianismwill lead, in its turn, to a more profound rupture with the society:spiritually transformed person turns off the process ofmultiplication of wealth. The thesis of the necessity of the unity ofman with nature Emerson understood it as a condition of spiritualemancipation of the individual, because only the nature is notsubjected to the influence of mercantile relations. The naturecontains the truths, the comprehension of which is the meaning ofhuman existence.
Emersonconsidered the vicious society as a factor that spawn all human’sbad sides and has a bad impact. Being an ideologist, he thought thatnature and the people’s unity with it is the best to escape theviciousness of society. It has to be admitted that, without anydoubt, there was a grain of truth in his ideas.
Thoreauas a skillful student of Emerson
HenryThoreau was born in Concord, where he lived almost all his life.World of Concord, its manners and social climate, the beauty of thenature largely determined the development of the future writer.Thoreau considered that “itis not man`s sin, but his boredom and weariness that are "as oldas Adam". (Elwell 1214) That “Adam” should exchange theenslavement to tradition for a liberty to experiment.Like other romantics, Thoreau did not accept modern bourgeoissociety, with its commercialism and utilitarianism. He turned out tobe in tune with the ideas of European Romanticism, with theircritique of capitalism. But Thoreau was not so much attracted by thecriticism of the existing situation in itself, as the search foropportunities to overcome all that hindered the achievement of agenuine spiritual freedom, which is, of course, understood as freedomof the individual. Particularly inspired he goes back to Rousseau`sidea of the unity of man and nature. Like for many Romantics,nature for Thoreau was a receptacle for the soul, the spiritualsymbol of the unity of all things. Nature is divine in everything,finding it not only in magnificent paintings, but also in the mostfamiliar and modest forms: in the landscape, grass, trees, lake.These ideas have a profound expression in his major work – "Walden"(1854). The basis of "Walden" Thoreau once again put hisown experience, but he was conscious of the experiment. It was aimednot only to prove the possibility of harmony between man and nature.Moving away into the woods, where he lived for two years in his ownhands built a hut on the bank of the beautiful pond, Thoreau decidedto check howapowerless person could defend his freedom against the encroachmentsof bourgeois society. (Canby 59)
HereThoreau frankly polemical in relation to the bourgeois mercantileAmerica artificially fanned the desire for luxury and comfort,encumber human property, making a slave to things. The book reflectedthe utopianism inherent for democratic thought of that time. However,this does not diminish the artistic value of "Walden". Itis reflected as a critique of social relations, and the height ofmoral criteria, which, according to the writer, the only able toprovide true freedom.
NathanielHawthorne and his vision of sins
Theworks of Nathaniel Hawthorne also dates back to the Puritan traditionof New England. None of the Romantics conscious desire to overcomethe influence of Puritan thought like Hawthorne, and yet like no oneof them, the understanding of the Puritan heritage was not sofruitful. The subject matters were many cornerstones and categoriesof Puritanism, concentrated, as in the Puritanism, about moral andethical issues. In part, this was manifested in a moralistic paintingof individual works of Hawthorne.
Thebasis of Hawthorne creativity, like other romantics is the rejectionof bourgeois society, where material roughly superseded perfect. Thissocial conflict writer conveyed through the clash of good and evil. Atraditional Puritan sin theme is widely represented in the novellas,but it gets far not the traditional interpretation: sins are(according to Hawthorne) forgetting humanity, selfishness, obedienceto speculative idea. (James 38)
Hawthorne’snovels are also permeated with that feeling. Among them stands out"The Scarlet Letter" (1850), in which the writer`s geniusfound the most full and free expression. It is based on welldeveloped by the time the New England writer of historical material.On the basis of the usual romantic antinomies: contrasting of heartand mind, "natural" and "artificial" in person,and so on, Hawthorne tells the story of a woman, convicted inaccordance with the customs of the time, always wear a scarletletter, symbolize her sin – adultery. He puts such troublingquestions as freedom of personality, freedom of the will andconsciousness, the criteria and the essence of good and evil, and theratio of the visible things. Images of the central characters, thecharacter of the Puritan community are outlined clearly andexpressively.
Comparingthe works of three different authors from the same literary group,should be noted that they are absolutely different, but still have alot in common. They have alike views to the crucial problems of thattime, problems that spoil people and solutions for them are tooutopian. The impact of society is undeniably huge, but everyoneshould make own choice, and this choice will determine one’snature.
Buell,Lawrence. Emerson.Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.Internetresource.
Canby,Henry S. Thoreau.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1939. Print.
Elwell,Walter A. EvangelicalDictionary of Theology.Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic [u.a., 2001. Print.
James,Henry. Hawthorne.New York: Harper & Bros, 1879. Print.
TheHoly Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments: Translated Out ofthe Original Tongues, and with the Former Translations DiligentlyCompared and Revised.New-York: Stereotyped for the American Bible Society by D. & G.Bruce, 1817. Print.