Self Reliance and Other Essays

Imitation in Self-Reliance: A Paradox? College

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a highly acclaimed philosopher, among other achievements. With a firm transcendentalist mindset, Emerson wrote a number of essays dedicated to the transcendentalist movement of the 19th century; one of which was Self-Reliance. In this thought-provoking text, Emerson expresses his opinions on a number of topics which revolve around the subject of “self-reliance” in an oracular and authoritative manner. His self-assured statements therefore may come off as unreasonable at times, and even contradictory. This essay will look into two quotes from Self-Reliance which appear to be inconsistent with one another, and then attempt to harmonize the two by examining Emerson’s messages in depth.

One of the major topics Emerson discusses in Self-Reliance is “imitation” and how this negatively affects civilisation. It is brought to light in the second paragraph of his entire essay, and from the very first line of which readers are able to discern his views on the matter, as he straightforwardly writes, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction … that imitation is suicide.” In very simple words Emerson conveys his standpoint. He goes on to elaborate on the ignorance of imitation,...

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