Response paper on the "Self-Reliance" quote, "The power which resides in him...know until he has tried."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If the response has to be constructed based on the quote above, there is much there to discuss regarding individuality and the need to break free from a social order. The full quote is, "The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."

 The notion of a "power" lying within the individual brings back the idea that a conformist social order does much in taking away from the individual being able to "know thyself."  At the same time, there is a reality present in the quote that individuals must act upon that force which lies dormant at the beckoning of society.  In this light, there is a demand and call to individuals to recognize who they are in light of their own sense of self, away from a social order.  I think that focusing on this dichotomy between individual and society is a major element of Emerson's work and might be something that you could use to construct your response to the work.

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