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

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.

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.