Depiction of Self-Reliance Responses

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  1. In the piece, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson makes various references and descriptions of what genius is, stating ...what he has said or done otherwise...shall give him no the attempt, his genius deserts him. (Emerson 20). The implied meaning given to the reader by Emerson is that genius amongst men, rather than only having certain thoughts, is when a man, no matter his thoughts, is able to truly and fully believe that those thoughts are the truth, and the only truth for oneself.
  2. In the text, Emerson states that he believes that in every person's life, they come across the conviction that, envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide, (Emerson 20). And in this statement, Emerson tackles the many ideas that he himself presents himself throughout his essay of self-reliance. The first of which being that individuals should stay individual, that is, that a person should forge onward through their own path in life, and as a result, will be much better off than someone who did not do so. With this in mind, the statement refers to Emerson's ideas of individualism, and an individual who breaks away from social conformity in our society, and for Emerson, the ignorance and social conformity hinted at in his statement is what he is against. The idea that an individual who has true knowledge is one who stick to his own sense of identity, and remaining an individual apart from the socially conforming herd that is society, and as a result, achieving happiness, rather than lying under the shadows of others where one then suffers a slow death of their identity.

  3. Throughout the text, Emerson makes notes various comparisons between nonconformists, and the rest of society, both of which he holds different values towards in respect to his own perspective. Regarding the values Emerson holds for nonconformists in society, Emerson values the fact that, in society, nonconformists are truly individuals, creators who carve out their own path and views, and from there, reach their own personal truth of what they believe is right. Likewise, from Emerson's values about nonconformists, the values he has of society are implicitly derived from those same values, that, ...For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure... (Emerson 24). Emerson values of society are asserted that in society as a whole, nonconformity is viewed as a threat to their lie of stability, that society lies quaking in fear towards the uncertainty of reality, and as such, must adopt traditional practices and customs that appear consistent to others, rather than relying on only one's self.
  4. In the text, Emerson asserts his own meaning of what consistency really is through his own values, that, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. (Emerson 24). When Emerson speaks of consistency, the way in which he describes consistency is presented in such a way that relates to his views towards conformity and nonconformity in society. Of course, as time passes, the world constantly changes, and in society as a whole, people would rather follow the course of tradition, where they refuse openness towards new ideas or ways of thinking in order to solve problems. From this, the assertion that Emerson makes of consistency, is that, consistency is to reject 'outside the box' thinking, because, to the conformity of society, to openly think is to risk the stable traditions of society with the prospect of dealing with new problems, but as a result, the only thing the individual truly achieves is mediocrity in the face of one's potential for greatness, a false claim of knowing, in a world of constant unknowing.
  5. In the text, Emerson mentions two groups of people who he views as different, the, little statesmen and philosophers [and the] misunderstood. (Emerson 24). Comparing the two groups that Emerson mentions, the people who he categorizes for the misunderstood are many notable, and historical figures known today, such as, but not limited to, Pythagoras, Socrates, Newton, and Jesus. For the group of little statesmen and philosophers, the people who Emerson categorizes as this encompass a broader spectrum of people with power, such as bureaucrats and politicians. Comparatively, in regards to the differences between these two groups of people, the misunderstood are people who follow their own path made by their own intuition, and whether or not that path is one of inconsistency, the misunderstandings that others' have about them in their time show the trust they have in their beliefs in a society that tries to force off one off their own beliefs. In contrast, the bureaucrats and statesmen of society are people who refuse to rise against the social norm, whether that be in the form of an 'intellectual-wannabe', someone who seems to be able to answer any question, but only with ideas that serve to appease the masses, or someone who is too fearful to even speak out in fear of being seen as out of the ordinary.
  6. In the text, Emerson makes a more obscure statement that has more implied meaning through his values, rather than the words themselves, stating, the divine idea which each of us represents (Emerson 20). Regarding the text, Emerson's words refer to his his strong promoting of individualism, that is, when Emerson declares that every individual is represented by a 'divine idea', Emerson is making reference back to the Transcendentalism movement itself. So, the description he presents to us for every individual in society, is that of having an innate potential for unlimited greatness in one's lifetime given to one by God.
  7. In the text, Emerson makes the claim that, To be great is to be misunderstood. (Emerson 25). And in this claim made by Emerson, part of the meaning lies in his previous assertion that consistency is an urge made by society as a means of conforming, and appearing to be just like everyone else. With this in mind, the greatness of the person that Emerson references to is something any individual should agree with because, their willingness to believe in their ideas as the truth, and be themselves in a world that tries to change who they are, regardless of society's misunderstandings of them, as well as many other individuals, ...Pythagoras...Newton.[and] Luther, who were also misunderstood, but nonetheless, held firm to their own truth, were shunned by society, but are great because of that.
  8. In the text, Emerson makes the statement that, God will not have His work made manifest by cowards (Emerson 20). And in this assertion from Emerson, part of the meaning of it comes from what he sees as genius among men, To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men. (Emerson 19). Together with this, as well as the innate human potential for greatness given by God, derived from Transcendentalism, the implied meaning of Emerson's statement is one that I agree with, that is, truth is accepting one's own uniqueness, and one's self identity, however, some will never reach this truth, or realization because they are too afraid, and thus, they try to change the truth of one's self out of fear or even reject it, since they do not believe their 'self' is truly good enough.
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Depiction Of Self-Reliance Responses. (2019, Aug 13). Retrieved September 25, 2023 , from

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