Self Reliance Essay

1678 Words 7 Pages
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
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Intertwined into this discussion is the major theme trust. Emerson explicitly states his theme of trust in paragraph 18, where he explains who the Trustee is. “The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? ...” (S.R. Paragraph 18). This theme continues throughout the course of the essay, where Emerson repeatedly emphasizes trusting the gut-feeling to make the correct decisions.
Some major values that Emerson advocates are self-trust and isolationism. Emerson believes that everyone should trust their intuition by disregarding consistency and conformity. In order to do this, Emerson draws upon the topic of isolationism, where each person should mentally remove his/herself from society to keep his/her intuition at its purest; “…but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude (S.R. Paragraph 6).” To further isolate oneself, Emerson hints that a person should become more selfish. Adopting this behavior, Emerson believes, will ensure that a person will not lose his or her money to unnecessary causes. Emerson states “Then, again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor?” (S.R. Paragraph 5). These unnecessary expenditures would only detriment self-reliance, and no such actions are permissible to achieve the greatest intuition. Therefore, Emerson’s…