Emersons Experience A Close Reading Essay

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Emersons Experience A Close Reading

In Experience, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes about the human condition shared by all in his uniquely “Emersonian” perspective. Perhaps one of his most effective works is Experience, an essay on a subject of which Emerson had much “experience” and personal grief. To fully appreciate Emerson, the reader must closely analyze his writing, with both its obvious meaning, and the experience with which he’s writing.

One particular paragraph is especially eloquent, and warrants closer analysis: “People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not half so bad with them as they say. There are moods in which we court suffering, in the hope that here, at least, we shall find reality, sharp peaks and
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He seems to suggest here that grief is but an illusion, because man is incapable of touching the human soul. Emerson continued with, “Grief too will make us idealists. In the death of my son, now more than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate, - no more. I cannot get it nearer to me.” Now, Emerson reveals his inspiration for writing Experience. With the death of his son, Emerson had suffered the fourth major loss in his family, which had been long plagued by tuberculosis. His first wife died of the disease and had claimed the lives of his two beloved brothers. Emerson was no stranger to grief, and the more he tried to psychoanalyze it, the emptier he felt. After sustaining so much loss, one must steel oneself from any further blows.

Next, Emerson wrote, “If tomorrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it would leave me as it found me, - neither better nor worse.” Here, Emerson could easily be accused of insensitivity, equating the death of his son to the loss of property. Although it is difficult for a compassionate soul to describe the death of a child as an inconvenience, again, we must walk in his shoes for a moment. The losses he was forced to endure over a

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