Themes Of Individualism In Ralph Waldo Emerson's, "Self Reliance"

1008 words - 4 pages

In society today it is very hard to be ones own individual self. Peopled tend to see other people as either individualists or conformists. If a person doesn't fall in with the "in" crowd then you are considered to be "weird" or "un-cool". Ralph Waldo Emerson made this apparent in his essay "Self-Reliance." "Self-Reliance" also had several themes that focused on the topic of individualism. It also showed how he thought self-reliance would play out in personal conduct. Plus I know almost exactly what's it's like to be seen as peculiar and, or "un-cool" just because I wasn't part of the "in" crowd and tried to be like everyone else.Emerson strongly believes that people look at others more than they look at themselves and what they have. He says, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance." (Emerson 1005) This talks about what people have and how they feel about it. If people look at other's possessions and are jealous of them, then they're not looking at what they themselves have, and they think that others possessions are better than theirs. Therefore, these people are being ignorant of their own possessions. He further says that, "…imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion." (Emerson 1005) He explains that if people are not true in the sense of individualism, then those people are in effect "committing suicide." Society will look at these people, who try to imitate others, with a different perspective than other people; society always singles people out into a "crowd" due to this. Emerson then describes how people must take themselves for whom and what they are, and people should neither change nor imitate others. He says "We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents." (Emerson 1005) If people believe that they cannot be depended on, then they can't rely on others. People then become unconfident in what they do and therefore don't trust other people. This, in turn, affects everyone's morals and has a very negative effect on the human consciousness. In effect, people will try to keep a distance from these individuals because of their behavior that results from this.Emerson then reinforces the concept of individualism and how people should accept what has happened to them. He says, "…we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny."(Emerson 1005) Emerson thinks that people must again take themselves for who and what they are; especially through the events people experienced in their past. These experiences make up who people are and people can't do anything to change what happened, but should accept things as they are. In not accepting their experiences, people are not moving along, and get lost in the past. Emerson then goes on to shed light on...

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