Describe the characteristics in "The American Scholar" by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's address "The American Scholar" was delivered on August 31, 1837 (in Cambridge, Massachusetts before the Phi Beta Kappa society). This address was meant to explain the importance of writing literature from an American point of view, not from a point of view influenced by any other country. Emerson decided that American writers needed to have their own style.

The address is didactic in nature. Didactic means to instruct or educate. Emerson's essay instructs its audience on the thinking of man (the "One Man," the "Man Thinking"), the importance of the past, and life as a dictionary.

The speech is written in first person. This allows Emerson to illustrate the fact that the ideas presented are his own (though the use of the pronoun "I"). He also uses the pronoun "you" (second person) to address the audience. The use of "you" draws the audience in, so as to say that Emerson is speaking to each and every one of them on a personal level.

Emerson also includes many rhetorical/literary/poetic devices. He uses repetition to insure his point is made ("patience, patience"), simile (the spirit to "shooting rays"), and metaphor (soul to a root).


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