Both essays focus on the importance of individuality, but while Emerson explains the main points of the philosophy, Thoreau takes it to the next step by discussing how the individual should work to improve a flawed society. In Emerson’s “Self Reliance,” the main theme is that one should rely on oneself, not on others. “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents… God will not have his work made manifest by coward.” One normally hides one’s great thoughts and ideas, afraid that he or she will be criticized. People ar...
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...ng, “If one HONEST man, in the state of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from his copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.” Here, Thoreau argues that it only takes one person to start a revolution. If one disagrees with slavery and the laws of the government, then he should disinvest from it. Doing so will inspire others to do the same.
Being an individual can seem difficult in modern society, but it is very important. Without individuality, society would not be advanced. Emerson says that people should be true to themselves, while Thoreau says to use one’s individuality to further advance society. Both argue once one truly finds oneself, he or she can change the world.
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