Self Reliance By Ralph Waldo Emerson Summary

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Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his text, “Self-Reliance”, persuades the audience to adopt individualism and have confidence in his or her thoughts and actions. His actions and beliefs are reflected through the Transcendentalist movement, found by him. Emerson aims to convince society that nonconformity will lead greatness rather than isolate him from it. He achieves this by using strategies such as personification, analogy, and allusion. Emerson immediately establishes a conflict in the beginning of the essay by personifying society as the enemy. In line ten, the author states, “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” In this conflict set up by Emerson, society is now the antagonist. Emerson deliberately distinguishes between the success of an individual and the success of an individual who relies on society and achieves what is needed which is seen in line five in which Emerson is saying, “no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” A few lines down Emerson mentions “society’s members sharing bread to another.” Emerson, in saying “bread” instead of “corn” and saying “sharing,” implies that society gives what is bare necessity to an individual however man himself will give himself more than what society offers. Society is actually taking away from its members instead of enhancing or improving their lives by asking its members to concur “to surrender the liberty and culture” of the individual. Emerson’s intention of making society the enemy is to ultimately make nonconformity the enemy. By agreeing to society, the individual is conforming to society thus deviating from society is a better goal for an individual and leads them to distinction in society. Emerson employs analogy in his essay by comparing society to a “joint stock company.” In line twelve, Emerson says, “society is a joint stock company, in which members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder…” This comparison is implying that society’s members think of the whole rather than that of the individual. Society seems to have a notion that they need to do good for all and in executing that thought they
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