Analytical Response for Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance

Analytical Response for Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance

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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...


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...s of white society. Furthermore, he blamed the slaves for their lack of insight and dreams for them being in the predicament that they were in. As a writer, Douglas uses a gloomy tone when describing some of the experiences that he had been through in his various owners’ homes. He also uses the tone when describing some of the events that took place once he was freed.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Self-Reliance relate in more ways than one, with the main one being that they are both advocating for individualism. They differ though, in the ways in which they believe it can be achieved. Emerson believes that self-reliance is achieved by connecting one’s soul to God, not overvaluing possession, and by not blindly following society. Douglass believes that self-reliance is achieved simply by taking control of one’s life and by also by getting educated.

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