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What does Emerson mean when he says, "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the...

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lizzy16 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 29, 2009 at 5:11 AM via web

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What does Emerson mean when he says, "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members."

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 29, 2009 at 5:32 AM (Answer #1)

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was perhaps the foremost of the American Transcendentalists and it is the philosophy of the Transcendentalist movement that is reflected in the passage you quote.

To the Transcendentalists, "manhood" (in today's language, we should probably see "being fully human," perhaps) is evidenced by doing your own thing, following the dictates of your own conscience.

By contrast, Emerson argues, society conspires to rob us of our "manhood" by making us conformists.   In the very next paragraph after the one you quote, Emerson writes the famous line "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."  To him, society tries to prevent us from being "men" by forcing us to conform.

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