What Are Some Themes in Emerson's "Self-Reliance"?


Quick Answer

Ralph Waldo Emerson's aptly titled "Self-Reliance" touches on themes of independence and innate personal strength. Emerson was an American writer who is considered to be part of the Romantic and Transcendental literary and philosophical movements.

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Full Answer

In his essay "Self-Reliance," Emerson outlines the benefit of individualism and a strong belief in one's own abilities, regardless of what critics and others may say. According to the Virginia Commonwealth University, Emerson wrote the essay after delivering a controversial speech at the Harvard Divinity School. Modern critics of "Self-Reliance" have said that it puts forth an unrealistic portrait of a very privileged lifestyle that cannot be shared by those who don't have the advantages that Emerson, a relatively wealthy, well-educated and well-connected white man who lived in a time when women and nonwhite men couldn't even vote, experienced.

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