Self Reliance

Length: 7 Pages 1721 Words

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 say Continue...


A genius is one who thinks like an individual and not restrained by society. For those who truly want to be an individual or a "genius as Emerson calls it, they have to struggle with society constantly and not mind being the "outcast of society. When people start giving up there freedoms because society says its for the common good of society, that is a problem, says Emerson. He wants people to stand out; they should stand up for what they believe in. They have a saying of "keeping up with the Jones which mean people are going to buy things not because they need them but because others in society have them When living in society man should also not get discouraged by society. who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper,.... The word genius has a meaning of a person with extraordinary intellectual and creative power. Emerson knows this but preaches nonconformity anyway. Both of these men are now considered geniuses and came up with ideas that is now thought of as common knowledge. The genius let society turn him down and get the best of him; he learned nothing from his struggle. As Emerson used to be a minister, he does not truly believe that people should listen to the devil. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face society will never let you go easy (182). This quote is comparing society to a joint-stock company, in which they will do what they think is best for the society not what you believe is best for you. This all goes back to the quote "our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us where Emerson is saying society chooses it for us (194).