Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” was written in 1841 in New England during the Transcendentalist Movement, which was a revolt against the “Age of Reason” and the beginning of Romanticism. Emerson’s essay is about Transcendentalism, the belief that every human has his own way of thinking and personal inborn knowledge to build his opinion, independent from the common beliefs of the community and he should believe in and express his opinion to be successful. Emerson supports the idea of Transcendentalism by urging his readers to trust their own ideas, beliefs and common sense, to listen to and to trust their inner voice and to hold the popular opinion back from influencing their way of thinking, if they want to be successful. He tells them to be proud of their own opinion and not to be shy to express it.
If all men lived after the idea of Transcendentalism and became self-reliant, they would do all jobs and activities better than before and would have more success.
“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think(American Literature Reader, pg. 56)” perfectly describes the main meaning of Self-Reliance. Emerson wants his readers to stop letting the community influence their own opinion and start trusting themselves. He says that men have to concentrate on their own thoughts and make them public. The beliefs of other men are not important for oneself since every human has inborn knowledge to recognize what is right, what is wrong and to understand moral truth.
Emerson and other Transcendentalists believed that this knowledge is a “Gift of God” and enough for an individual to build his own opinion but a man “shall be forced to take with shame his own opinion from another [citizen] (pg.55)”.
A man’s personal moral is the only issue that is needed for him to decide about his actions and to define his own thoughts. Emerson criticizes that men do not even try to build their own opinion because they blindly trust the thoughts of the majority or they conform to the will of the community because their opinion differs from the common beliefs. They do not have enough courage and self-confidence to express their opinion since they are afraid that other men could look down at them because they do not have the same opinion. This turns them into just one, tiny, unimportant part of billions of people, whose thoughts are basically equal, but exactly the aspect of being different from everybody else, being an...