Emerson Essay Self-Reliance

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The third invites students to consider whether they would embrace Dr. It explores paragraph 7, the most well-developed in the essay and the only one that shows Emerson interacting with other people to any substantial degree.

The exercise is designed to raise questions about the implications of Emersonian self-reliance for one’s relations with others, including family, friends, and the broader society.

He contends that there is within each of us an “aboriginal Self,” a first or ground-floor self beyond which there is no other.

In “Self-Reliance” he defines it in mystical terms as the “deep force” through which we “share the life by which things exist.” It is “the fountain of action and thought,” the source of our spontaneous intuitions.

The student’s version, an interactive worksheet that can be e-mailed, contains all of the above Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, but he is still very much with us.

When you hear people assert their individualism, perhaps in rejecting help from the government or anyone else, you hear the voice of Emerson.While they influence us today, Emerson’s ideas grew out of a specific time and place, which spawned a philosophical movement called Transcendentalism.“Self-Reliance” asserts a central belief in that philosophy: truth lies in our spontaneous, involuntary intuitions.The text analysis focuses on Emerson’s definition of individualism, his analysis of society, and the way he believes his version of individualism can transform — indeed, save — American society.The first interactive exercise addresses vocabulary challenges.Embracing this view of individualism, he asserts, can revolutionize society, not through a sweeping mass movement, but through the transformation of one life at a time and through the creation of leaders capable of greatness. Click here for standards and skills for this lesson. For more information on text complexity see these resources from Indeed, nonconformity is a sign of strength: “Whoso would be a man,” he writes, “must be a nonconformist.” In a sense “Self-Reliance” can be seen as a pep talk designed to strengthen our resolve to stand up to society’s efforts to make us conform.“Nothing,” Emerson thunders, “is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” This is individualism in the extreme.Thus we can be assured that what is true in our private hearts is, as Emerson asserts, “true for all men.”* But how can we tell if our intuitions come from the “aboriginal Self” and are, therefore, true? Emerson says we must have the self-trust to believe that they do and follow them as if they do.If, indeed, they are true, eventually everyone will accept them, and they will be “rendered back to us” as “the universal sense.” Until the rest of the world accepts our beliefs, however, we will be out of step; we will be nonconformists. The essence of self-reliance is resistance to conformity.


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