Compare and contrast Emerson's "Nature" essay with his "Self-Reliance" essay.How do they both represent Emerson's style and message, yet differ? Please cite specific lines/passages when possible.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In both Nature and Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson focuses upon humanity.  Just as individuals are part of the "idea of man," so, too, the are individuals part of the "Over-Soul."  Thus, the idea of nature correlates to the idea of man since both are part of a universality in which people can see their souls reflected.  For instance, in Self-Reliance, Emerson writes,

And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny...obeying the Almighty effort...Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind....Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Likewise, in Nature, principles triumph when "all egotism vanishes" as man becomes "a transparent eyeball" that becomes part of something far greater than himself. Moreover, the power to produce delight resides, not in nature, but in man himself. For, "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."

Thus, the burden of responsibility is upon the individual himself; in Self-Reliance, man must maintain his individuality and not allow society to be in "conspiracy" against him; likewise, in Nature, man must allow Nature to take him to a "higher thought."

In both his essays, Emerson admonishes his audience to live free existences in which they are ready to receive messages from their own identity or from nature. However, Nature is perceived as an organic whole in the essay of this name, while in Self Reliance Emerson advocates individualism and rejects being part of a whole. Nevertheless, both the self and Nature are mediums through which all can learn.


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