Brendan O'Connell 3/4/08 ENG 254 America Speaks Defining the American vernacular can be difficult for many reasons

. Vernacular could be the way that characters in a story talk or it could be describing how America speaks all together. The transcendentalist writers showed us that everything has a voice. The rivers and lakes, the trees and flowers, everything has a way of speaking to us. I would say that the American Vernacular is not about what is spoken, it's more about what isn't spoken but still heard. Early transcendentalists spoke with long eloquent words that only the most educated people could read. The writing was not meant for the everyday person and effectively only showed the vernacular of the wealthy, educated, and intelligent. What they did show was that they were able to find themselves by going into nature. They have heard the vernacular of the Earth and have seen the words of nature. Transcendentalism has given us another way to connect with nature and realize that what we touch, see, hear, smell, taste is a very small part of reality. It took along time for America to create it's culture and the vernacular took many years to develop. Transcendentalism gave a voice to everything that couldn't speak. They understood that nature needed to speak also, but they did not even start to create the voice of America's people. The Concord writers don't deserve to be credited with creating the American vernacular. They didn't show what was really happening in the world, they just complained about their lives and ran to the woods. They may have created transcendentalism, but their writing doesn't really show how most of the population lived. Writers like Emerson, Thoreau and Fuller are more like posthumous psychotherapist, they can show us how to live and how to feel but they didn't create an interesting story that people wanted to read. Poe, Douglass, an Twain are just three people wrote for everyone and wrote because they wanted to. Until Mark Twain there was no dialect or character of the person speaking in the story. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the first type of book to show how people really spoke. Often credited with creating the idea of vernacular in a story, Twain was actually just the first one that showed a poor, southern boy speaking to an older black man. Vernacular is not just the way that people speak, it is a way to see the world. We have to look at this in a different way than the classic definition that says the vernacular is the language of a particular country or area; the vernacular I speak of speaks for all of America. If we look at what is considered very “American” today, we will also see what the American Vernacular. It's all about freedom and democracy and what Thoreau called Self-emancipation. The vernacular is more than that though. The entire area of the United States of America speaks to each of us in a different way. It tries to show us how to define nature and beauty; but there is no single description of beauty. Each person in the world has their own perception of what is beautiful. If transcendentalism has contributed to the voice of America, it has told us to look at what could be and not what once was. Emerson and Thoreau had the same idea that everyone needs to take time and see the world for its true beauty. We all have to take one day at a time, that is the American vernacular and it shows us all a better, more simple way to live. Many people in America have unknowingly accepted the vernacular of all of America. The American vernacular is not a dialect though; it is a way that people see, hear and try to understand the world. It tells us how to find who we really are and why life is important. The United States of America is like a spirit, it guides us and speaks to us and tells us what to do. The way that it speaks is the vernacular and is shown in every piece of literature that we have read. The spirit of America has a free voice that is not scared of saying what it wants. The freedom that is granted to all in America creates a stronger language, better writing and the ability to discover who we really are. The hardest part of these ideas are definition though. What is beautiful? And what is nature? The American vernacular says that definition is unnecessary. I say that the American vernacular tells us the take life one day at a time and value everything that is seen, whether it fits your ideals or not. The American vernacular is a vernacular that is not spoken, it is the telepathic communication that everybody has in their soul. Belief makes no difference in whether a soul exists or not. There is always an inner voice that guides us between good and bad. I believe that Walt Whitman described his soul as a song, since he was an atheist he had to

invent a way to describe the thing living inside of him. All human beings have a song and it is written in the vernacular of themselves. America is special because is has it's own song that everyone else can hear. Sometimes it is sung proudly, and other times is is softly spoken. Connecting the entire population of America is the common vernacular influenced by the early transcendentalists. The focus on nature and beauty that the transcendentalists had should still be important today. The American vernacular breaks away from transcendentalism though and goes into the realm of escapism, and that is what we see in books all the time. The stories from what is known as the American Renaissance go beyond what we see everyday and show us things that we wish for. They speak to us and show us a different type of person that we may never know. Books have often been called a gateway to another world and indeed they can be transportation to find where the American vernacular really lives. But like all great stories, the message is in us, but locked up and the words are a way to free what we really need to hear. The idea of freedom, whether it be from slavery or guilt or yourself, plays a central part in what the American literary voice is all about. But we really need to focus on freedom from ourselves and being trapped by society. I think Walt Whitman said it best when he wrote “the day, what belongs to the day?” It's an interesting point that he makes, what does one day matter? Whether I had a good day or a bad day, there will always be tomorrow. The voice of America is continually saying that although certain things may die, there will always be beauty in the world. I say the world instead of America because the ideals of the American vernacular may only speak to us, but the message that it holds needs to be heard by everyone and everything. Walt Whitman was a proud American man that wanted the working class to know that they appreciated. But patriotism and the “American Dream” have little to do with the transcendentalist conception of the American vernacular. Reading the stories of the Concord writers shows us that even if they had a good life, they still needed to go into nature and see what is truly beautiful. The modern people of America take too many things for granted and need to read more anti-transcendental literature. The anti-transcendental movement really started, I believe, with Fredrick Douglass and his writings about his life. It was a difficult time for him, and he had gone through so much more than the Concord writers. He was also one of the first to write a story that everyone could read and get involved with. The writing of Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and to a certain extent, Whitman, are well written, very intelligent, yet it's hard to enjoy the story and many of them do not make you want to read more. Twain was a revolutionary writer because he not only captured the vernacular of southern America but his writing was some of the first American fiction. The writing of Twain contributed a soul and emotion to the American Vernacular. Before him it was just a list of ideas and virtues that people should follow. The dialect that he used in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn made people read more because they finally had a character that they could really relate to. The fact that it has created controversy since it was first published shows us that his writing gets people talking and is able to affect everyone. Rich or poor, black or white, Twain was the writer that was able to bring everybody together and really create the American vernacular. His writing was simple yet well written, the only people that didn't like it must have been the ones that didn't read it. Most writing has a purpose or a message that the author wants to tell his readership. Twain didn't bury his message like the Concord writers though. He wrote the vernacular that everybody could read right on the top of his words. A higher education was not needed to understand what he was saying. Many times stories are over analyzed and it ends up ruining the story that was intended. Twain wrote a story that kids could read and understand easily, but adults would also want to read. Poe tried to write for everybody, but his stories are very dark and not something that many kids would be allowed to read. The American vernacular is meant to glorify what is truly “American” and spread patriotism also. Twain showed the truly American side, and the Concord writers told us about nature's beauty. That is the main difference between the two, one shows and has a conversation with the reader while the other side just talks and never waits for a response. Walt Whitman was the man that crossed a very thin line between patriotism and being too critical of America. His work is able to use big words that sound very smart, but he also shows that he is a real person that wants to be seen as just another guy. Too many writers in the past, and present,

write only for money. Twain and Whitman are just two people that we covered who seem to have written for the simple pleasure of creating a compelling story that made people thing. Another part of the American vernacular is making people think, but not just the wealthy, well educated ones. Whitman wanted everyone to read his writing and really think about what he wrote. To really grasp the concept of what a writer was trying to get across, it shouldn't take a lot of work. But that is exactly what modern classes are doing. They kill this American vernacular that writers have tried to create for so long. It's not just killing words though. Like I said earlier, the Vernacular is a spirit that talks to us, instead of reading so far into what a person wrote, we need to invite our souls to let us feel what the story has subconsciously taught us. The freedom that is so commonly associated with the American literary voice, is a freedom of the soul. Every person on earth needs to feel free, and that is what Whitman was talking about when he wrote of inviting one's soul. The soul is the one thing that everything has, except for maybe rocks. You can call it whatever you want, your soul, your song, your conscious, it doesn't matter what it is called, it is still there and it lets us “see” the real world. The American vernacular lives withing all of us and what we need to do is free it from ourselves. Living with the spirit instead of controlling it can show us all a different way of perceiving the world. The way that Whitman defined transcendentalism, though he may have done is unintentionally, is all about freedom from yourself. If there is a spirit that resides in all of us, it needs to be freed. It guides us to nature and shows the beauty that is all around us everyday. Too many things go unnoticed now and slowly the beauty that America once had, dies. Emerson and Thoreau were very smart men, but the writing that they did will only really benefit them. It would have been better for them to write their respective best sellers for themselves and then written another story about what they learned about themselves while they wrote their own stories. In many parts of their books, it sounds insincere and more like they just wanted to get published. I don't criticize them for being businessmen, but I would like to point out that no book should be written for money. . Anyone that thinks they have a good idea or story would gladly tell you for free. And there's that word again, Free. The American Vernacular that has been talked about so much is free, it doesn't cost anything, yet you get so much from it. One of the main ideals of America is Freedom; freedom of speech and religion are not the only things though. The struggles that some of these writers went through really show what we need to be free from. Whether it be slavery or an old lady that's restraining your childhood, nature is always free and the beauty that it holds should never be captured. I think that if Emerson and Thoreau came to modern day America and say their writing next to some panoramic of Walden Pond they would want to die all over again. They wanted us to see nature as it is, not in a photograph or on the television. To buy pictures of nature's beauty we are going against everything that the transcendentalists believed in. We have effectively released our souls and captured nature, which is pretty much the opposite of what these men, and women, wanted. All of the authors that we have focused on wanted us to be able to free everything. Nature and soul, body and mind, nothing should be controlled by anyone. Writing is difficult and defining the American literary voice is almost impossible. That is only because each person needs to create their own definition of what it is and if my perception of what the American vernacular is is the only definition that people know, it goes against everything that the transcendentalists and other writers tried to establish many years ago. Transcendentalism is now just an idea and the other world that we all live in may never be seen again. That is to say, the world that we see around us everyday is not America, it is the idea of America, to see the beauty that really is around us we have to look deeper and go beyond what we can sense. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most famous phrases from the declaration of Independence, and today it can be read as the simplest, most accurate definition of the American literary voice. But by itself it does not tell the whole story of the American voice. The ideals and voice of America is in a world that we can only see very little of. I combined the earlier line with a quote by Chief Seattle for what I believe to be one of the best definition of “The American Vernacular”. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is the voice of America. But for this voice, there is no death. Only a change of worlds”