Choose a metaphor from "Self-Reliance" and discuss how this metaphor can be used to understand the essay as a whole.  "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the heart of Emerson's famed essay, "Sel-Reliance," is the line,

Every heart vibrates to that iron string.

The metaphor of "iron string" is the innate independence of man which Emerson has established as intrinsic to man earlier in his essay as he alludes to man's infancy and youth which conforms to no one and expresses his young man without compunction.  The voice of independence, Emerson further contends, is that which we hear in solitude, but is quieted by society that is "in conspiracy" against the individual who threatens the security of its culture and power.  Thus, society creates fear in an individual, demanding that he conform.  This conformity, however, works against the "iron string" that is inherent in any man.

Therefore,"Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist" Emerson insists. Indeed, man must respond to the "iron string" of his heart and soul--his transcendent destiny of individualism is he is to live an authentic existence.

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