Analytical Response Essay

783 words - 4 pages

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas is Frederick Douglass’s account of the troubles Douglas experienced as a slave in the United States. It is written in the first person and gives a very vivid look into the life of a slave in America. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance is also a first person look into a specific time period; the post-slavery era. Through Emerson’s declarations of the importance of thinking for one’s self, Emerson puts an emphasis on personal life experiences and not accepting other people’s ideas. This compares with the life of Douglas, because Douglas refused to fit the mold that society had formed for him. Throughout Douglas’ narrative, he is diligent in his efforts to develop his mind. The idea of individualism was very prevalent in both works. Although they both believe that it could be achieved, they go about it in totally different ways. What set them apart, was the fact that one of the authors is black and the other is white. One of the authors is addressing a post slavery audience while the other is still fighting for the abolishment of slavery. Not only does this explain the differences in what they consider to be independence, but it also explains the different tones that each piece was written in.
In Self-Reliance, Emerson delves into the notion that people are occupied with the need to please members of society. This will not help them reach their goal of self-reliance because they are fully dependent on getting the support from societies’ other members. This is detrimental to one’s personal pursuit of their individual goals because of their fear of being criticized or “misunderstood”. He clarifies by saying, “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus…” This further states the fact that some of history’s greatest men were labeled as outcasts by their peers. Not only will groupthink prevent one from achieving complete self-reliance, but so will placing an unhealthy value in objects. By saying, “Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet.” Emerson is urging readers to know their self-worth. Their self-esteem can’t revolve around physical possessions, but it has to come from within. As a remedy to...

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