Comment upon one of Emerson's assertions."Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty

This assertion of Emerson's must be accurate; else, how would the poet write such emotive langugage to which readers respond? If there is no emotional connection--if readers and listeners had not first thought about their own emotions in some other context--the poet's language could not touch the readers so.

Truly, as readers, people bring to a text much of what they themselves have already experienced and thought.  However, few record their thoughts or even can formulate them into something worthwhile.  Thus, the genius of these thoughts are cast aside until such time that they view them in a work of art created by another.

pholland14's profile pic

pholland14 | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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"Whoso would be a man must also be a nonconformist."  Emerson's nonconformity takes the shape of when he looks at the giving of charity even though it does not fix the inequality that created the inequality in the first place.  He calls the dollars he gives "wicked," though he has, in times of weakness, given these dollars anyway.  I would like to add that while charity does not fix the situation that created the need in the first place, it does serve as an immediate aid for the people who need it the most and that the problems of the poor cannot be readily fixed before their lives become worse.  

Emerson also comments that good deeds are the exception rather than the rule and that these good deeds are more done for public approval than out of mankind's altruistic nature.  I would like to comment that this is a very realistic, although bleak picture of mankind.   There are some altruistic people who do things out of a love for mankind and not for public approval and Emerson needs to reexamine his view of humanity.  


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