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Self Reliance

Self-reliance is a difficult concept; to be truly self-reliant one must do and believe only what is in their hearts. In society, there is a constant struggle with beliefs that are not the standard. Those individuals who stray from the standard are shunned thus forced caused to conform to society. The true struggle of an individual is between himself and society. There is a constant struggle within man between his beliefs, and the constraints society puts upon him. As Ralf Waldo Emerson states in his essay “Self- Reliance” “our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us” (194). Emerson is trying to open the eyes of society to his insight, how society is making man struggle by causing him to conform to its standards and beliefs. Emerson wants man to think and do what he believes to be true and pure, and not be held back by society. Society has ways of corrupting its members and molding them into what society wants them to be. Only the greats of society have been able to break society’s grip on them. Often they were shunned and told their ideas were ridiculous, but in later generations, they were revered as geniuses. As Emerson says, “To be great is to be misunderstood” (183). What he means by this is the ideas we have, may seem to be abstract and wrong at the time, but that is because the thinking of the period has not progressed to that level. However, all the great thinkers have always been misunderstood until society has caught up to them. They were all ahead of there times. By saying this, Emerson is trying to open people up into being bolder with their ideas before someone else thinks of the same thing. “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts;” (176) if society did not hinder man’s decision to cast aside those thoughts, that man would have been considered a great. “Yet he dismisses without notic...

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Self Reliance. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:37, August 22, 2014, from