Ralph Waldo Emerson Research Paper

Decent Essays
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Success In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s various essays, poems, and other writings, he puts significant emphasis upon defining what constitutes success among men. “The American Scholar” and “Self-Reliance,” two of Emerson’s most well-known essays, describe in detail the attributes of a successful, enlightened human being; the most essential characteristics, judging by Emerson’s continued reiteration of their value, are most certainly self-trust, nonconformity, and the ability to live in the present. Contemporary American society reinforces these qualities in many ways, but they often seem to be superseded by materialism, insecurities, lamentations, and other ephemeral distractions. According to Emerson, the only way to be considered…show more content…
In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson explicitly states that “whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist” (827). Emerson urges his readers to think for themselves, rejecting the presumptions and traditions of the previous generations, if they should see fit to do so. Acknowledging the dangers of dissent, Emerson admits that “for nonconformity the world whips you with displeasure” (829). Nevertheless, a man cannot be enlightened if he relies solely upon the thoughts and presumed knowledge of those around him; as Emerson put so eloquently, “insist on yourself; never imitate” (840). The endorsement of individuality can be found everywhere in today’s society, and it is one message that seems to have been embraced as a part of American culture itself. As Emerson realized, people tend to be happier when they feel comfortable expressing their own opinions without…show more content…
As Emerson perceived the world, “Man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoes to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time” (“Self-Reliance” 833-834). Even if a man finds himself with both self-trust and originality, he may never realize his true potential if he is preoccupied with past events or future fortunes. Emerson finds these obsessions to be utterly useless: “Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is the infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend to your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired” (838). In contemporary society, a willingness to “live in the moment” is highly regarded, especially among youth, yet this acceptance seems to wane with age. Nevertheless, excessive anxiousness and nostalgia are a waste of the potential that can be realized when the truths of the present are
Get Access