Explain the thematic applications of Emerson's "Self- Reliance."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most overwhelming thematic element of Emerson's essay is the call for individuals to follow their own voice.  For Emerson, this idea applies to all levels of people in all of society.  When individuals are able to follow their own voice, act upon their own sense of understanding, greater awareness of self emerges.  The primary thematic application of Emerson's essay is to not acquiesce to what others expect.  This drive away from conformity is one of the strongest themes from the essay.  Emerson makes it clear that the essence of "self- reliance," as a concept, is to live one's life away from the prodding and molding influences of others.  Emerson understands that the rise of industry and commercialism in the America in which he is writing helps to create a condition of conformity.  His thematic drive in the essay is to counter this.  Seeking to bring individualism back to the forefront of modern consciousness, Emerson's belief in the construction of oneself is of vital importance to the thematic points in his essay.  It is here where I think that one can sees the most prevalent thematic applications of the essay.


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