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Emerson's "Self-Reliance"

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Carrie Kumpel

on 1 November 2013

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Transcript of Emerson's "Self-Reliance"

Emerson's "Self-Reliance"
Trust thyself; Every heart vibrates to that iron string.

Accept the place the divine Providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands.
There is a time in every man's education where he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact makes much impression on him, and another none.

This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.

The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.
God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

A man is relieved when he has put his heart into his work

... but when he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace.

What is the relationship between education and ignorance?
What does it mean to imitate? Why would Emerson say it is suicide?
What does it mean to toil? What does it mean to till?

What appears to be Emerson's purpose?
What might an eye be a symbol of?

What kinds of things do we remember? Why do we remember some things and forget others?

What is the point of those three sentences together?
What is the relationship between what a man must do and God?
What makes a man happy?
What is divine Providence?
Who/What is the absolutely trustworthy?
What is child-like about genius?
Who should you trust? Why?
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.

The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion.
It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Why would society be in conspiracy against manhood? What is Emerson's definition of manhood?

What is virtue, and why would society see conformity as a virtue?

If aversion means an object of opposition, what is he saying about the relationship between conformity and self-reliance?

Why does society like names and customs? Does the self-reliant person agree?
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by statesman and philosophers and divines.

With consistency, a great man has nothing to do.

He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.
A hobgoblin is a mythical creature that takes care of the house when people are asleep, maybe doing the ironing but also playing silly jokes. They could in fact become menacing if annoyed. Sounds nice? To Emerson, it came to mean a superficial object of trouble. Why would Emerson compare consistency to a hobgoblin?

What is he alluding to when he says "shadows on the wall?
Allegory of the Cave
This allegory talks about truth and knowledge.

Explain what this allegory has to do with those who see truth, and those that do not.

What does it mean to be reliant on someone else? Why would that be a negative idea?

What does it mean to be self-reliant? How might that be viewed more positively? What would a self-reliant person look like?
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