Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Compare "Self-Reliance," "Walden," and "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" regarding individual responsibilities in a conformist society.

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Both authors advocated for social change, but Fuller's focus was primarily on the condition of women.

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Margaret Fuller, in Woman in the Nineteenth Century, advocated for the rights of people to whom they had been denied in US society, especially women but also enslaved African Americans. Feminism and abolitionism, both separately and in tandem, are prominently featured in her work. Fuller identified social conventions as supporting unjust, immoral restrictions on freedom, and advocated for social change.

As the friend of the negro assumes that one man cannot by right hold another in bondage, so should the friend of Woman assume that Man cannot by right lay even well-meant restrictions on Woman. If the negro be a soul, if the woman be a soul, appareled in flesh, to one Master only are they accountable. There is but one law for souls, and, if there is to be an interpreter of it, he must come not as man, or son of man, but as son of God.

Because women were treated as men’s dependents, they were discouraged from being self-reliant. Freedom, for women, would not only support personal development but allow for enhanced contributions to society.

Fuller’s views are generally in sync with those that Ralph Waldo Emerson put forth in Self-Reliance. Social convention too often, Emerson claimed, kept people from acting on their own convictions. To life a moral and purposeful life, according to God’s plan, required stepping out of those conventions and acting on one’s own convictions. Simply put, “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.'' Divinity for him as well was manifested in each and every individual so that true equality was compatible with God’s will even—and sometimes especially—when it contradicted man’s law. Although Self-Reliance is not in itself an abolitionist document, Emerson advocated for abolition in other writings.

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