In Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance, what does the following quote mean: "I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me"?

Expert Answers
kmalone614 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote, from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is one of the many very strong statements made my Emerson in this piece. When he cites those family members, "father and mother and wife and brother," he is citing the people who are, basically, forgotten, and left alone whenever "his genius calls." This suggests two things. First, it suggests that Emerson believes he is and has genius which may call to him at any time. Secondly, he feels that whenever he is called to enact that genius, for him, probably in writing, he will forget and ignore all those who should mean the most to him. He suggests that, when he is creatively working "with his genius," he needs only himself, and need only be "self-reliant."

kmalone614 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the many very strong statements made by Emerson in this piece. When he cites those family members, "father and mother and wife and brother," he is citing the people who are, basically, forgotten and left alone whenever "his genius calls." This suggests two things. First, it suggests that Emerson believes he has genius that may call to him at any time. Secondly, it suggests he feels that whenever he is called by that genius, probably in writing, he will forget those who mean the most to him. He suggests that when he is creatively working "with his genius," he needs only himself and need only be "self-reliant."

Read the study guide:
Self-Reliance

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question