(This piece was part of my graduate research in environmental rhetoric and counter-culture… looking at how literature and media has shaped our modern view of the environment leading into the National Parks movement.)
The nineteenth-century in America was, undeniably, a time of growth. Between the years of 1820 and 1870 the industrial revolution birthed an economy that was threatened by the British. Railroads expanded across the country and cities began to attract agriculturally-based communities with the promise of fruitful employment. During this substantial industrial shift, America’s arts culture ultimately shifted as well, introducing the Transcendentalist movement into its literary era.  In short, the Transcendentalist movement was one based around the idea of existentialism and the philosophical concept that humanity is inherently good, but has been corrupted by society. The cleansing of this corruption, thus, is to venture away from society in order to find the “self”; to look at itself on the inside rather than focus externally on materialism. Prolific writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Muir fathered this rather historically Romanticized movement.