Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance states that “imitation is suicide” and to “trust thyself.” Today in society being an individual is difficult because someone is always trying to get in the way; however, Emerson gives the reader a better understanding of why it's important to follow your own heart. The purpose of this essay, pertaining to any audience, is to show that a person needs to find his own truth. That person must learn to “take himself for better for worse as his portion” and not be ashamed of what he's become. Emerson connects with the reader through his diction and syntax in order to persuade the reader to rely on himself.

Throughout the essay, Emerson's diction centers on allusions and analogies of historical figures. By comparing society to a joint-stock company, Emerson demonstrates how people try so hard to fit in. He believes that a person will follow behind the head person in order to protect themselves and their wealth. According to Emerson, people are almost always willing to conform to society, and he states that “self reliance is its aversion.” He tries to show the audience that they must be willing to speak the truth without being afraid of what others will say.

Emerson also alludes to many great men such as Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, and Newton who were misunderstood, because “to be great is to be misunderstood.” We cannot always want to be normal and fit in because that is simply becoming a part of the “joint-stock company.” Along with allusions, Emerson uses symbols and imagery of nature to support his claim of individuality. The “oversoul” is one key element that Emerson illustrates in his essay. A person should look deep inside his heart and find his own truth. Along with the oversoul, we must connect with God and the divine idea because religion is man-made and a person cannot just follow a religion and feel complete.

The reaction of the reader should mainly be focused around awareness. We must learn that the truth is within us and “man and nature have a connection.” Emerson recognizes that there are many people in society today who are afraid to be different; however, “none but he knows what that is which he can do.”





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