“Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 18 March 2016

“Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think” (Emerson lines 30-31). Ralph Waldo Emerson was the transcendentalist leader in the 1830s which influenced his beliefs in his essay. He uses examples to compose the conclusion that people should follow their own instincts and be an individual. Emerson’s ideas on individualism and self trust in “Self- Reliance,” were influenced by religion and the rise of transcendentalism. Emerson was influenced by beliefs of different religions during the time of the 1830s. In his essay, Emerson states, “…if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil” (Emerson line 26). Basically, he is saying that no matter what his values are, even if they are bad, he will not change them because that is who he is. Everyone should trust their own beliefs because that is what makes them the individual that they are. Emerson’s writing was influenced by religion, by not only believing in Gods views, but by believing in your own. Emerson himself writes “What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within?” (Emerson lines 22-23).

He is insisting that he doesn’t need God to know his own beliefs. If your religious views are different than other individuals, you should stay that way because that’s who you are. You should follow your innermost beliefs and not change just because others think differently than you do. Emerson believes that you don’t have to follow any religious traditions because you have your own customs within, which is being an individual. Ralph Waldo Emerson was influenced by transcendentalism, because at the time he led this movement. As the prominent writer Emerson puts it, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps within perfect sweetness the independence of solitude…” (Emerson lines 35-38). In making this comment, Emerson argues that even when other people around you speak their thoughts, the thought of independence should be a constant.

You cannot completely isolate yourself, but one should maintain one’s own sense of independence while being immersed in a social setting. Individuals must find a balance between being dependent on others in a social sense, while maintaining their own sense of independence from the opinions of others. According to Emerson, “Whose would be a man, must be a conformist” (Emerson line 15). In other words, he believes that if you only do what others do, you are not being who you’re supposed to be; you are being who others have determined you to be. Everyone should trust their own beliefs and not everyone else’s. This influences the theme by not conforming to society and the effects that they have upon individuals.

Emerson’s ideas on individualism and self trust in “Self- Reliance,” were influenced by religion and the rise of transcendentalism. The transcendentalist leader, Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in the importance of individualism and to follow your own instincts. He shows the importance of being yourself and not conforming to society nor their beliefs. Everyone should be who you are and not change because of the different beliefs around you. Everyone is different and unique in their own way and that’s what makes us individuals.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 18 March 2016

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