What does Emerson say about work in "Self-Reliance"?

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dneshan | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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As a transcendentalist, Emerson belived that peopl must live their own lives and not worry themselves with that other people do of what other people think.  In "Self-Reliance" he discusses this idea and shares his position on the idea of work.  Emerson says,                                                     

     "A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his bet; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace."

By this, Emerson is saying that when a person works on something on his own and does as best as he can, the work is much more important and the person feels more of a sense of worth than he would if he copied someone else's work or did not do it to his full potential.  Furthermore, Emerson says,

     "But do your thing, and I shall know you.  Do you work, and you shall reinforce yourself."

  Here, he touches upon the very essence of what it means to be a transcendentalist which is to be a non-conformist and to worry about only what concerns you as an individual in terms of work.  His main point about work in this essay is that in order to achieve a high sense of self-worth and respect, man must do the very best that he can do and not worry about others' work along the way.


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