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In his essay "Education," explain the effect of at least five examples of figurative...

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magnotta | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:29 AM via web

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In his essay "Education," explain the effect of at least five examples of figurative language that Emerson uses to advance his argument.

Emerson's essay "Education" was put together from his writings published in The American Scholar and from his commencement addresses.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 11, 2011 at 12:44 AM (Answer #1)

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Much as in his essay Nature, Emerson's essay on Education expresses his philosophy that the universe is composed of Nature and the Oversoul; these, in essence, are the teachers of man.  It is this unity of being that allows man to connect to knowledge.  All that is necessary, contends Emerson, is that man be awakened to this connection and have access to the divine energy from which he can attain true education.  In his essay Education, Emerson argues,

Whilst thus the world exists for the mind; whilst thus the man is ever invited inward into shining realms of knowledge and power by the shows of the world, which interpret to him the infinitude of his own consciousness--it becomes the office of a just education to awaken him to the knowledge of this fact.

In order to advance his argument that man take the universe "unto himself," Emerson employs figurative language, significantly metaphor and personification.  For example, in his admonishment of the current system of education, Emerson uses the metaphor of "a system of worn weeds," a system of old, worthless methods:

I call our system a system of worn weeds of your language and opinion.

Certainly, Emerson argues in favor of the creative intelligence, urging adults to be the companion of a child's thought..."the lover of his virtue," a metaphor which compares the adult to an admirer:

...this is the perpetual romance of new life [metaphor], the invasion of God [metaphor] into the old dead world [metaphor for old ways of thinking], when he sends into quiet houses [metaphor for old ways of thinking] a young soul with a thought which is not met, looking for something which is not there, but which ought to be there:  the thought is dim but it is sure, and he cast about restless for means and master to verify it; he makes wild attempts to explain himself and invoke the aid and consent of the bystanders.

In a simile to underscore his point that education should encompass all that Nature and the Divine can teach him, Emerson states, "Education should be as broad as man." 

In addition, Emerson employs personification in his discourse, referring to "Economy and Glee," among other examples such as this one:

Heaven often protects valuable souls charged with great secrets, great ideas, by long shutting them up with their own thoughts.

It is ominous when the law touches it with its finger.

Near the end of his essay, Emerson uses an extended metaphor of boys for the eager and open mind,

 This is the perpetual romance of new life, the invasion of God into the old dead world, when he sends into quiet houses a young soul with a thought which is not met, looking for something which is not there, but which ought to be there: the thought is dim but it is sure, and he casts about restless for means and masters to verify it; he makes wild attempts to explain himself and invoke the aid and consent of the by-standers.

For, concludes Emerson, "children should be treated as the high-born candidates of truth and virtue" since they are receptive to the wisdom that lies predominantly in Nature.

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