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How does Emerson explain how he used figures of speech to develop his theme in...

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babydollvaldez | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 12, 2008 at 12:34 PM via web

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How does Emerson explain how he used figures of speech to develop his theme in "Self-Reliance"?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2008 at 11:12 PM (Answer #1)

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Emerson uses tons of similes, metaphors and allusions to make his points clear. One of my favorites is "To be great is to be misunderstood":

Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

What a great group in which to share company--Jesus, Pythagorus, Socrates, Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, et al. 

One examples of simile comparing a person to a puzzle or poem:

A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; — read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing, contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not.

Another metaphor which sums up the meaning of this essay:

Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same.

So, live truthfully, simply, and stand on your own two feet for what you most believe in.

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