Emerson, Ralph Waldo is an outstanding American writer in the nineteenth century. His work Self-Reliance is an important and influential work which encourages a man to be confident and independent. Through the analysis and research of Emerson and his works, the thesis explores four main ideas in the work, including “The
Confidence” , “The Independence” , “The Personality” , “Showing no Sympathy
to the Poor”, of which “The Confidence” is the core point in this thesis. Based
on the research of the four ideas, the thesis discusses the enlightenments on today’
s society, including the enlightenments on the confident and optimistic attitudes towards life, the promotion of female’s self-reliance, the influence on individuals’
success and a country’s prosperity.
Self-reliance; Emerson; enlightenment
Emerson, Ralph Waldo was one of the most outstanding American writers in the19th century; he experienced much in his whole life. His Self-Reliance is an influential work which deeply attracts many readers. “Believe in Oneself” is the main idea
expressed and analyzed in the work. In Self-Reliance, there exist four kinds of important thoughts. The first kind of thought is “The Confidence”. Emerson advocated
that a man must show his opinion confidently and bravely in spite of different ideas. “The Independence” is the second kind of important thought which is expressed in Self-Reliance. A man should keep himself firmly but not be easily influenced by environment. The third kind of thought is to keep personality, which is closely related to the confidence and the independence. From Emerson’s opinion, a man must
keep his personality and conform to his own principles. “Showing no Sympathy to the
Poor” is the fourth kind of thought in the work. It shows that why the poor are poor is mainly due to their backward thinking. Showing help to this kind of people means doing harm to them. All these ideas in Emerson’s Self-reliance have enlightenments
on today’s society. They help people take confident and optimistic attitudes towards life. These important thoughts enlighten the female to be confident and strive for their social status. Besides, they are crucial for individuals’ success. Each man
who possesses the thoughts is easy to make progress and achieve success. Moreover, a country’s prosperity is established on the basis of confidence and independence.
I. A Brief Introduction to Emerson and His Self-Reliance
A. Emerson, Ralph Waldo
Emerson was one of the most outstanding American writers in the 19th century. He was born in a clergyman’s family in Boston in 1803 and raised by his mother and aunt. America was lively but disordered when he was born. Some people were aware of the appearance of new power, but nobody could express it clearly. He entered Harvard University when he was 14 years old. During this period of time, he read a large numbers of books about Britain romanticism and enriched his thoughts. Three years later, he graduated and became a teacher for two years. In 1826, he entered seminary of Harvard and formally appointed as priest in 1829. However, he resigned 3 years later for two
reasons, that is, he was unsatisfied with the dogma and his wife died of illness. Then he traveled around Europe and got to know some famous writers. He was deeply influenced by romanticism and gradually formed his own transcendentalism. He returned to his country in 1834 and then settled with his second wife in Concord. In the time following, he published Nature that includes almost all his important ideas. From that time on, he made addresses everywhere publicly and gradually became a celebrated scholar in America. Emerson always held a small party with his friends and made discussion about theology, philosophy and sociology. Such kind of party was called transcendentalism club at that time. Naturally, Emerson became the leader of transcendentalism and was responsible for brining transcendentalism to England. Emerson collected all his speech materials and made a book called Essays, including Self-reliance, Love, and Friendship and so on. Emerson’s Essays speaks highly of
the man who should trust their own suggestion. He advocated that a man should develop the national pride and opposed following the others’ saying. Almost all his speeches
made a deep influence on America’s national civilization. In 1837, he published a
famous speech which declared that the American literature was separated from Britain literature. He was also the spokesman of transcendentalism. Emerson abandoned the thought which takes god as the centre. He raised the idea that the man could know the truth by instinct, so to some extent, the man is the god. Then he cried out that ‘Believe in Yourself’. His opinion reflected the advancing spirit of capitalism society. This positive spirit was called as American religion and it pushed the development of national spirit of America. He was the clairvoyant of American spirit and belonged to America, Emerson’s thoughts and works largely promoted the
establishment and development of American national spirit.
Emerson’s works deeply attract readers, especially Self-Reliance, which is from Essays. This prose is finished according to a series of speech materials between 1836 and 1837. Self-Reliance is his significant work which expresses his idea of transcendentalism. “Believe in Yourself” is the core point of Self-Reliance. Emerson
opposed all forms of imitation in the works. He thought the man should believe he was excellent at any time. The real man should learn how to reject to drift with the stream. If a man is afraid of public opinion or compelled him to do something unchanged, he will possibly lose the innovative ability which leads him to success. If a person doesn’t want to let him or the society down, he must comply with the principles in his inner heart, yet the people who comply with the authority, tradition or current system means break this principle. The ideas which Emerson expressed in his prose are largely different. They agreed with the American people’s optimistic spirit at
that time. Above all, he believed in individualism, independence and self-reliance. His works is not easy to be understood. He reconstructed the common literature images in writing skill and endowed the works with new ideas. Generally, the readers have a common view that his ideas are special and unique.
Nowadays, there are many books about self-support. The authors express a series of ideas as Emerson did. The difference is that the common books are easier to be understood. The authors use simple sentences in their works so that all readers can
easily know what the authors express. But Emerson’s Self-reliance is needed to read
many times. He mainly expressed four important ideas in this works, including “The
Confidence”, “The Independence”, “The Personality”, “Showing No Sympathy to
the Poor”. “The confidence” is a core point which Emerson stressed in Self-Reliance. All men should trust their own opinions in spite of the different ideas. Emerson thought a man should trust himself firmly. “The Independence” is another subject
which Self-Reliance fully elaborates. It expresses that a man should act independently but not always relies on the other people. Besides, “Showing no
Sympathy to the Poor” agrees with the idea of self-support. In the works, Emerson gave the opinion that the poor are lack of advancing ideas. The result of supporting the poor is to do harm to them. At last, to be a self-reliant person, the man should keep his personality. These ideas are important in today’s society. This prose exerts
much influence on many ordinary people.
II. The Analysis on Emerson’s Thoughts in Self-Reliance
Self-Reliance is not an average work. Its content is difficult for readers to understand. Emerson showed many of his opinions about life in the work. The most important ideas include “The Confidence”, “The Independence”, “The Personality”,
and “Showing no Sympathy to the Poor”. These ideas are practicable and meaningful
for the reader’s lives.
A. The Confidence
Self-Reliance is one of Emerson’s important works which express his transcendentalism. “Believe in Oneself” is the core point in it. In the works, Emerson showed his opinions about the confidence. He criticized all forms of imitation and opposed all self-abased people. The confidence is an evident idea which Emerson gave in Self-Reliance. He thought that the confidence was a very important virtue. The philosophical idea which he expressed in Self-Reliance had its special power. It enlightened many people and catered to the spirit of optimism in America at that time. Emerson believed a man must trust himself and be himself. Many self-abased people can’t express themselves bravely and are ashamed of their divine ideas just because the ideas are their own. Emerson believed that the man should concern his own points of view and keep them steadfastly. In his opinion: “A man should learn to detect
and watch the gleam of light flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and cages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.”(Emerson, P7, 2005) From this sentence, it can be acquired that Emerson gave support for expressing one’s own ideas loudly and bravely in spite of
the others’ existence. Emerson’s opinions enlighten a man to keep his original saying in the face of mixed voices. As an individual in society, a man shouldn’t suspect
himself, or the suspicion from the other people will attack him constantly. The person who doesn’t believe in himself will never win the other’s credibility. In Emerson’
s Self-Reliance, It is a little difficult to understand the meaning. However, “Trust
Yourself” is expressed clearly and can be known by readers easily. The author showed the idea that the man should own the spirit of self-confidence and try to be the true himself. For example, Emerson said in Self-reliance: “Let us never bow and apologize
more. A great man is coming to eat at my house, I do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me”. (Emerson, P20, 2005) On Emerson’s saying, it
is known that he supported the man to be himself generously in spite of the other people’s social status. Once a person comes to the world, he is possible to be the best one. However, many people are generally timid, and they are no longer upright, they are afraid of saying “I think”, but only quote motto. As a matter of fact,
Emerson encouraged the people to express “I think”, “I am” bravely and directly.
These words clearly prove the spirit of self-trust.
There is a popular saying that “if you think you can, you can”. The confidence is
the first step to make success. And Emerson showed the valuable idea in his works. It is believed that the readers are more confident after they finished Self-reliance. B. The Independence
Just as “The Confidence”, “The Independence” is also a significant idea which
Emerson showed in the works. “The Independence” is closely related with the spirit
of self-reliance. The author mentioned “The Independence” everywhere in the works.
Emerson supported the man to be the true himself independently.
Each person should act according to what he thinks. According to Emerson’s original
words: “what I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think”(Emerson,
P15, 2005)，Emerson thought that the people shouldn’t be influenced by the others.
Each one is the first who knows himself much. It is known that the only right is to conform to the man’s own will, namely, the only wrong thing is what is against his own will. Emerson supported that the people insist on carrying themselves in the face of all opposition. The true self-independence is void of other’s encouragement; prize
is just as an auxiliary function for achievements. The true self-independent man is one who still stand firmly when all people fall over, and who himself plays the major role in his world, while all the other persons are supporting roles. Emerson pointed out that it was easy to live after the world’s opinion. Most people prefer to this
in daily lives. But a great man always separates himself from the crowds. Generally speaking, many people are easily influenced by environment. Emerson sharply opposed this idea in Self-Reliance. He thought the man should cultivate the personality of self-independence. Emerson expressed another kind of viewpoint, that is, consistency, which is in large scale a kind of self-trust. He once said: “A
reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them”.
(Emerson, P16, 2005) Indeed, a large number of person always cope with their lives in the same way, because they are afraid of being defeated by new methods. However, they are lack of innovation, which makes them lack of self-independence. Because of their consistency, it is very difficult for them to make progress or stride in life. Independence is established on the basis of continuous new progress. Therefore, the spirit of innovation can strengthen self-reliance. Emerson said: “Nature suffers
nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of
self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul”. (Emerson, p30, 2005) According
to Emerson’s words, the society refuses the persons without self-reliance. No one can help the man except himself. Those independent people can stand easily and stably. Independence is an indispensable quality for one’s success. Emerson pointed out that
the man without any independent idea is difficult to conduct himself. Therefore, it