Chapter one : The romantic period
I. Emerson’s transcendentalism and his attitude toward nature:
1.Transcendentalism—it is a philosophic and literary movement that flourish in New England, as a reaction against rationalism and Calvinism. It stressed intuitive understanding of god without the help of the church, and advocated independence of the mind.
2. Emerson’s transcendentalism:
The over-soul—it is an all-pervading power goodness, from which all things come and of which all are a part. It is a supreme reality of mind, a spiritual unity of all beings and a religion. It is a communication between an individual soul and the universal over-soul. And he strongly believe in the divinity and infinity of man as an individual, so man can totally rely on himself.
3.His toward nature:
Emerson loves nature. His nature is the garment of the over-soul, symbolic and moral bound. Nature is not something purely of the matter, but alive with God’s presence. It exercise a healthy and restorative influence on human beings. Children can see nature better than adult.
II. Hawthorne’s Puritanism and his black vision of man:
1. Puritanism—it is the religious belief of the Puristans, who had intended to purify and simplify the religious ritual of the church of England.
2. his black vision of man—by the Calvinistic concept of original sin, he believed that human being are evil natured and sinful, and this sin is ever present in human heart and will pass one generation to another.
3. Young Goodman Brown—it shows that everyone has some evil secrets. The innocent and na?ve Brown is confronted with the vision of human evil in one terrible night, and then he becomes distrustful and doubtful. Brown stands for everyone ,who is born pure and has no contact with the real world ,and the prominent people of the village and church. They cover their secrets during daily lives, and under some circumstances such as the witch’s Sabbath, they become what they are. Even his closed wife, Faith, is no exception. So Brown is aged in that night.
III. The symbolism of Melville’s Mobby-Dick
1.The voyage to catch the white whale is the one of the mind in quest of the truth and knowledge of universe.
2. To Ahab, the whale is an evil creature or the agent of an evil force that control the universe. As to readers, the whale is a symbol of physical limits, or a symbol of nature. It also can stand for the ultimate mystery of the universe and the wall behind which unknown malicious things are hiding.
IV. Whitman and his Leaves of Grass :
1. Theme: sing of the “en-mass” and the self / pursuit of love, happiness, and ***ual love / sometimes about politics (Drum taps)
2. Whitman’s originality first in his use of the poetic form free verse (i.e. poetry without a fixed beat or regular rhyme scheme),by means of which he becomes conversational and casual.
3.He uses the first person pronoun “I” to stress individualism, and oral language to acquire sympathy from the common reader.
Chapter two : The realistic period
I. The character analysis and social meaning of Huck Finn in Adventure of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck is a typical American boy with “a sound heart and a deformed conscience”. He appears to be vulgar in language and in manner, but he is honest and decent in essence. His remarkable raft’s journey down on the Mississippi river can be regarded as his process of education and his way to grow up. At first, he stands by slavery, for he clings to the idea that if he lets go the slave, he will be damned to go to hell. And when the “King” sells Jim for money, Huck decides to inform Jim’s master. After he thinks of the past good time when Jim and he are on the raft where Jim shows great care and deep affection for him, he decide to rescue Jim. And Huck still thinks he is wrong while he is doing the right thing.
Huck is the son of nature and a symbol for freedom and earthly pragmatism. Through the eye of Huck, the innocent and reluctant rebel, we see the pre-Civil War American society fully exposed. Twain contrasts the life on the river and the life on the banks, the innocence and the experience, the nature and the culture, the wilderness and the civilization.