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What is Emerson asserting in this statement?"It is easy in the world to live after the...

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anna549 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 26, 2010 at 6:13 AM via web

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What is Emerson asserting in this statement?

"It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude..."

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 26, 2010 at 8:03 AM (Answer #1)

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The basic premise of the quote is that there is a greater sense of character within the individual who is able to maintain their own sense of character and integrity in a world that might speak otherwise.  Emerson's primary assertion is one that stresses that independence of thought should be a constant, even when all other voices around the individual speaks to the contrary.  For Emerson, the approach of his contemporary, Thoreau, is an admirable one, but one that does fully take into account that individuals must live in a social setting amongst individuals.  At some level, being able to isolate oneself in a complete sense is not practical.  However, if one can maintain one's own sense of identity and independence while being immersed in a social setting.  In this light, individuals must find a balance between being dependent on others in a social sense, while maintaining their own sense of independence from the opinions of others.

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