In the time when Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne lived, there were great changes in society. The people of this time were highly religious and believed that a life full of good works was most important for a happy life after death. For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about his beliefs saying “To be great is to be misunderstood” (Emerson). Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that it was impossible to live a perfect life on Earth through doing many good deeds.
In addition, Ralph said that there is no use worrying about what your true purpose is in this world because you can never really know until you die and go to heaven or hell depending on the quality of your works. In contrast with his beliefs, Nathaniel Hawthorne greatly valued the concept of good works in order to gain salvation. Nathaniel wrote about his beliefs saying “A man who characteristically aims at the substance, will do few superficial things” (Hawthorne). Nathaniel Hawthorne started many charities and wanted people to follow him in doing good deeds not only for the sake of gaining salvation but also for the sake of humanity.
Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne had similar views on how it is impossible to be perfect; however, Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that it was possible to be great even without being perfect while Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that it was necessary to be great in order to truly make an impact with one’s life. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that there was no use worrying about what one’s true purpose is because no one will ever truly know what it is until they die.
Ralph wrote about his belief by saying “A great man is always willing to be little” (Emerson). Ralph believed that people who are great do not worry about status or title but only focus on doing good works even if it means being seen as ‘lesser’ than others. On the other hand, Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that people should aim to be great; he said “At last, I fell asleep with a new resolve, which may be stated thus: Resolved, That I would allow my life to be filled with weak endeavors, rather than not attempt strong ones” (Hawthorne).
Nathaniel Hawthorne highly valued the concept of greatness and believed that nothing mattered unless it was done to the best of one’s ability. Ralph Waldo Emerson valued the concept of true greatness while Nathaniel Hawthorne valued the concept of achieving greatness at all costs. Ralph thought that everyone could be great, even if they did not achieve perfection, while Nathaniel only wanted people to be great if they truly devoted their lives to great things without worrying about what others thought.
Ralph looked at the big picture when deciding whether someone was great or not while Nathaniel focused on how well something was done before judging whether it was worthy of being called ‘great’. Ralph Waldo Emerson was more concerned with helping mankind in his works rather than gaining fame through them making him a better influence in society in my opinion whereas Nathaniel Hawthorne was more concerned with gaining fame through his works that I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson would have a better impact on society.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne both had very different views on how one should live their lives, but Ralph’s beliefs can be seen as the main influence in American society today. Ralph wanted people to do things out of happiness rather than out of obligation or for personal gain which helped lead to the advancement of culture in America. Ralph said “Whoever does a thing best, loves it” (Emerson) which was a belief shared by many artists and other kinds of creative individuals who aimed to bring beauty into the world without caring much about money or status.
I feel that Ralph helped lead to the increase in status of creative individuals in American society today and helped lead to a more positive culture by influencing people to just do what makes them happy. Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that people should aim to be great and worked hard at making an impact with his work which I feel Ralph Waldo Emerson would have appreciated; however, Ralph would probably prefer that Nathaniel focused less on trying to make an impact with his works but instead focused more on doing good deeds for the sake of improving mankind like Ralph did.
Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne valued true greatness but had different ideas about what it meant to be great. Ralph looked at helping others as an act of greatness whereas Nathaniel looked at how well something was done before deciding if it was deserving of being called ‘great’. Ralph influenced people to do good deeds that had a positive impact on society whereas Nathaniel Hawthorne chose to focus on doing great things instead of helping people.
Ralph was more concerned with making a positive impact in the world through his works while Nathaniel wanted his work to be known as ‘great’ which I feel Ralph Waldo Emerson would have appreciated. Ralph valued true greatness much more than Nathaniel did and I feel that Ralph’s belief system is what led to an increase in American culture today whereas Nathaniel focused more on working hard at achieving something great rather than aiming for greatness in general.
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that there was no use worrying about what one’s purpose in life is because no one will truly know until they die, but it is more important to just do whatever makes them happy. Ralph said that it does not matter what a person does with their life because “it is done unto us” (Emerson) which means that the decisions are out of our control so it is best to just do things for happiness rather than trying to find some hidden meaning in life.
Ralph’s belief system helped lead to an increase in American culture today by influencing people to just live their lives doing what makes them happy even if it doesn’t have any real purpose. Ralph wanted people to be great at things simply because they enjoyed doing them instead of being great solely for fame or money which I feel Nathaniel Hawthorne would have appreciated Ralph Waldo Emerson’s beliefs about greatness.