Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance and Transcendentalism

Categories: Ralph Waldo Emerson

American transcendentalist philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his self-help essay, he speaks on the conformity of humanity and how we must follow our instincts, our gut feeling. Emerson's purpose is to convey the idea that even though society itself corrupts our 'natural goodness' in people and that societies rules take us away from ourselves and our true persona's. He adopts a firm, educated tone to execute his message to the reader and teach the reader his core beliefs of transcendentalism and individualism, transcendentalism is the belief of inherent goodness of people and nature adherents believe that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, they have faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent.

Emerson opens his lesson/essay on self-reliance and transcendentalism, initiating the conversation on human self-reliance and empowerment, by sharing one of his famous quotes 'Ne te quaesiveris extra'(line 1, page 1) in his epigraph which means 'do not seek for things outside yourself'.

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Emerson in page one of his essays 'self-reliance' he gives us a motivational sentiment to believe in ourselves, but later contradicts it by applying this level of greatness we must reach 'believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius'(line 15 page 1). He later begins to capitalize on this claim and describes the shared attributes we share with influential people such as Moses, Plato and Milton 'spoke not what men but what they thought'(line 20, page 1). This sense of contradiction from Emerson conveys an empowering tone that reassures the reader that even though he gives us this sense of anxiety we can reach that level of greatness and empowerment.

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Emerson continues with his essay on 'self-reliance' and begins to speak to our insecurities by using literary devices such as pathos. He begins this conversation by speaking on our 'rejected thoughts'. He teaches us that 'In every genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts' (line 1, page 2). He not only speaks to our insecurities in this line, but he also speaks to our doubts. To prove his point he makes a strong claim by using literary devices such as comparing and contrasting our completed works and our word. 'A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace'( line 7, page 2). This sense of bluntness makes the reader think about their past decisions and their failures to take a leap of faith in their lives to reach success.

Emerson continues to teach his beliefs of transcendentalism but also contradicts them on page 3 and 4 of his essay using literary devices such as paradox. In (page 3, line 30 and 31) ' He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear. These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.' Emerson in this text gives this world this sense of evilness. Based on Emerson's beliefs which is the belief that humans have 'natural goodness' the world and society is pure evil, but this is where the reader might disagree with him.

Emerson later on in page 4 begins to use literary devices such as paradox to contradict his transcendentalist beliefs. 'They do not seem to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the devil. No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good or bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this' (line 11 and line 12). Emerson in this essay puts this sense of confidence in his tone to give the reader a sense of reassurance that his beliefs are true. He also gives this sense of contradiction as well, he makes sure that he gives exemplary storylines and philosophical opinions that support his claim of a humans 'natural goodness' but then seems to support that there is no such thing as good and bad.

Emerson's 'self-reliance' essay is very self-empowering and influential to whoever may read it. It teaches the reader the importance of self value and how it affects our daily thinking and daily lives. The use of pathos, paradox, metaphors etc effectively demonstrates the importance of self-love, self-empowerment and being true to yourself. His essay has truly inspired many unique people throughout the world ad will continue to inspire many more to believe in their inner beauty.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance and Transcendentalism. (2016, Aug 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/ralph-waldo-emerson-self-reliance-and-transcendentalism-essay

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance and Transcendentalism essay
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