Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance Essay

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance"

Ralph Waldo Emerson believes he writes quite the persuading argument in 'Self-Reliance.' Wielding his pen as if it were Excalibur, he vies to stimulate and challenge the down-trodden mind in his classic work on the American Spirit. His lines are affecting, romantic, and hypnotic, especially at the first reading; his thoughts on the page beget inspiration for the reader. 'Self-Reliance' has its value in its boldness, its construction, and mature attitudes toward consistency and failure. In addition, Emerson's confident logic seems impregnable. At a second glance, however, it becomes apparent that this logic bases itself on a flawed philosophy which does injustice to the value of
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His sketch of the sturdy lad from New Hampshire, always trying, always landing on his feet, always succeeding, is an excellent passage in ?Self-Reliance.? The example is a convincing and effective motivator, a reminder that failure is only temporary. Finally, he makes a noble plea to dissuade faddish Emersonian followers, saying, "But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation," (1170). Again, it cannot be denied that Emerson makes some interesting points. He also makes many convincing logical arguments. Just because his philosophy is logical, however, does not mean that it is sound.

Emerson greatly undervalues society. He scoffs at any valuable connection between it and himself, writing, "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members," (1162). Please, be realistic. What could Emerson have possibly accomplished if he had never come in contact with the stimulants of the arts, sciences, and fellow human life? Where would he have been without society, without friends, enemies, and colleagues? Building a fire? Hunting wild geese? I feel reasonably assured that without society Emerson would not have the luxury of discussing philosophy, nor the opportunity to ponder creating an ironically famous isolationist essay. Society gives humans