Analysis Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 's ' Civil Disobedience ' Essay

Analysis Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 's ' Civil Disobedience ' Essay

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In current society, individuality is discouraged because many people want to fit in, so they dress, think, and act the same as the people around them. However, individuality should be embraced, not avoided. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance,” he discusses the importance of the individual, believing that being an individual begins and ends with following one’s intuition and trusting oneself. Although the importance of the individual is also a major theme throughout Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” his essay focuses more on applying this principle to real life. He believes that people should break away from the societal pressures that cause them to conform to society’s expectations. Furthermore, Thoreau argues that people have an obligation to be individual in order to improve society. While both Emerson and Thoreau believe greatly in the importance of an individual, Emerson provides perspective of independence in more of a spiritual sense while Thoreau provides perspective in more of a societal sense; Emerson emphasizes the importance of being true to oneself while Thoreau emphasizes the importance of using one’s independence to improve society.
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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