Self Reliance Essay

Self Reliance Essay

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The Transcendentalist movement flourished in New England, and proposed a revolutionarily new philosophy of life. This new philosophy drew upon old ideas of Romanticism, Unitarianism, and German Idealism. Some of these ideas pertained closely to the values of America at the time. These values included nature, individualism, and reform, and can be noted in the essay “Self Reliance,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In this essay, Emerson states his values and incorporates them into his philosophy of self-reliance.
In the past 170 years, some of the ideas stated by Emerson in his literary work “Self-Reliance” have weathered the test of time. However, since his archaic examples no longer apply to modern life, other sources of transcendentalism must be found to sustain the ideas. Such strongholds of ideas may be scarce, but they do exist in the form of environmentalists and hard working people. Contrarily, other modern barriers have risen, and impede the validity of the original transcendentalist values of “Self-Reliance.” While the ideals of “Self-Reliance” fit well with Emerson’s audience of the “ancient” time, some aspects of his work need alterations in order to totally relate to a contemporary teenager.
In the essay “Self-Reliance,” Emerson elaborates upon his idea of self-reliance with the incorporation of major themes. For example, when Emerson discusses the conformity and consistency issues of people, he explains how most people act like lemmings, and also how they only trust their successful past actions, rather than exploring new paths. Emerson then ties these issues to people’s lack of self-trust of their intuition, or the innermost part of people that guides the way in life. Emerson states that “Consistency is the hobgoblin of l...


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... young merchant fails men say he is ruined… A sturdy lad from New Hampshire…who in turn tries all the professions… falls on his feet…is worth a hundred city dolls (S.R. Paragraph 22).” This example shows how persistent people will eventually surpass and succeed over even the most intellectual people. No matter how smart someone is, he or she has to continue trying if they ever want to succeed.
With the completion of “Self-Reliance,” Emerson introduced his view of the human nature to the whole world. This philosophical work is packed with examples of how to live a great life with the standards of the transcendentalists—intuition, individualism, isolationism, and nature. Though some of the examples fall short of modern standards of living, other examples will continue far into the future, and inspire curious people about a revolutionarily different approach to life.

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