Author- The author of this document is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. Audience- The audience of Self-reliance would be people reading Emerson’s literary works around the year 1841. Also, Self-reliance was a speech before it became an essay so many people listening to Emerson speak at events would have most likely heard it. He is targeting his audience at young and medium aged men.
Message- The message of this essay is that humans should trust themselves and not be slaves to society. They need to think and act for themselves instead of leading lives controlled by others. Context- Self-reliance was written around 1836 in America. Emerson’s wife had just died about five years before and he was preparing a series of lectures. America was a new place for people and ideas and Emerson flourished there because he could take advantage of the easily influenced minds of the Americans.
a) The claim that Emerson effectively advances is that humans should not conform to society, but rather they should think for themselves and believe in what they do. He writes, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, – that is genius.” This quote supports Emerson’s main argument that each person should think for themselves and to not just accept what is written in a history or literary book. Emerson plays on the reader’s pathos, or emotions, by saying, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” This statement appeals to the reader because Emerson is creating a bond between his words and the reader by relating to the audience on a personal level and telling the audience to trust them. Emerson uses logic by stating, “Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
Emerson feels that to be a man, one must not conform to the format set out by society. He believes that a man should follow his own ideas and beliefs instead of conforming to the popular belief. Ethos is appealed because Emerson is a very well respected author who has published well over dozens of essays. b) Emerson implements many rhetorical devices in his essay such as parallelism, diction, and repetition to further advance his argument of being independent and not conforming to society.
Emerson uses parallelism by stating that, “Envy is ignorance; the imitation is suicide”. This quote is very powerful because it conveys the message that a man is only what he makes of himself, not what others make of him. Throughout his essay, Emerson uses outstanding language to control the audience. Using great diction is very effective because the audience trusts Emerson because of his knowledge of literature. Finally, Emerson uses repetition to prove his point about society. Emerson starts a sentence off with the word Society, and then starts the very next sentence with the same word. He is talking about how society is a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members, and without repeating the word society; the point would be not as effective.
This argument is overall effective because as a reader, I was captivated by his language and examples of how society was affecting the human person. The text is very persuasive because he provides clear and well throughout examples to support his main argument. This is a very well written essay and it has led me to question my own beliefs about society and whether it is positive or negative. When he stated that every person must trust thyself, it was really effective for me because I believe every single person needs to trust their actions and believe that what they are doing is right.
Admonition- An act or action of admonishing; authoritative counsel or warning
Naught- worthless: useless
Firmament- the vault or arch of the sky
Bards- a tribal poet-singer skilled in composing and reciting verses on heroes and their deeds
Vanity- something that is vain, empty, or valueless