My Analysis of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay “Self-Reliance”

             “Every man for himself.” Although simple in context, this expression encompasses a rather complicated topic. Throughout the history of America, the debate over whether an individual can survive dependent on his or her own competence has resulted in much controversy and contradiction. When the Puritans separated from England, they were criticized for thinking they could establish their own country. The Puritans, however, overcame adversity and introduced America to the world, one colony at a time. They proved to humanity, that united and with God directing their paths, they could do anything. Early in the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a respected writer and philosopher, termed this issue as self-reliance. This phrase simply emphasizes the reliance on one’s own efforts, skills and capabilities for survival (Patterson 1).
             Emerson was born in Boston on May 25th, 1803. At a young age he and his siblings lost their father and were raised by their single mother. He studied in public schools, boardinghouses, and finally at Harvard he obtained a teaching degree. As a result of his failure to be a successful schoolmaster, and of a great religious experience, Emerson grew in his Christian faith and became a preacher. Although his works were undistinguished throughout this time, Emerson fervently continued to compose essays, implementing his innermost beliefs and values into each one. The death of his wife opened the door to skepticism, and in 1832 he resigned his position at the church. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, with the publication of his first series of Essays, that his name was imbedded into the minds of Americans. From this collection of journals, thoughts and lectures, the essay Self- Reliance is derived. Although his essay may be difficult to understand, Emerson uses this technique for readers to make their own interpretation of it.
             Emerson is recognized for many of the principles and ph...

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