Read lines 12–24 and restate the central idea from Emerson's "Self-Reliance."

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In this passage, Emerson calls readers toward nonconformity. He asks his audience to accept their individuality, their unique thoughts, and their distinctive value. Rather than comparing our ideas with others, Emerson wants all humans to fully embrace their especial ideas. He goes so far as to call each human's uniqueness...

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In this passage, Emerson calls readers toward nonconformity. He asks his audience to accept their individuality, their unique thoughts, and their distinctive value. Rather than comparing our ideas with others, Emerson wants all humans to fully embrace their especial ideas. He goes so far as to call each human's uniqueness "divine" or holy.

We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.

He sees such great value in each person that he considers their thoughts to be almost religious, or god-like.

Additionally, he says that anyone who envies and imitates others, rather than embracing their selfhood, shows cowardice:

... but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Emerson calls every human to live fully, using their differing gifts and their own powers to positively impact the world.

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.

In this quote, he says that each person has a unique power. They don't know what that power is until they embrace who they are—embracing their talents, their skills, their thoughts—to make a difference in their part of the world.

He suggests that there is plenty of good, plenty of the divine, around the world (in other people):

... that though the wide universe is full of good ...

Still, each person gains something of worth by living fully, relying on their own unique thoughts, desires, and actions. He shows this through a farming analogy:

... no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

In this analogy, Emerson shows how each person can produce (or grow) something of value in his or her part of the world by embracing their personality. Each human can only live their fullest, most meaningful and world-changing life if they accept who they are. Every individual should trust that they are divine, valuable, and able to impact some part of the world for good.

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This section of Self-Reliance includes some of Emerson's most famous statements, especially that "envy is ignorance" and that "imitation is suicide." This, in fact, is the prevailing theme in the essay. He urges his readers to look inward for inspiration and to expect nothing from the world except that which comes through work and responsibility. He says that this is the only path to happiness:

A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace.

It should be noted that Emerson, a writer and intellectual, is not so much referring to material success as intellectual and moral fulfillment. Emerson thought a sense of satisfaction could not come through seeking the approval of others nor relying on their ideas, but rather through an appeal to one's own heart. Later in the essay, he beseeches his reader to "trust thyself," and he emphasizes the uniqueness of each individual throughout the lines mentioned in this question. "The power that resides within" each individual "is new in nature," Emerson writes, and nobody can predict what that power is capable of until the person who possesses it put it to good use.

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In lines 12-24, Emerson states that self-reliance starts, as we might imagine, with the individual's decision that he must work hard to develop his talents: "no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till." 

But self-reliance means more than simply doing hard work. It also involves discerning what particular task God has called you as an individual to do and then accepting that call. It means being original: "imitation is suicide." In Emerson's view, God has planted into each one of us a particular gift, what he calls a "preestablished harmony...that divine idea which each one of us represents." To develop this divine idea or gift means understanding who one is as a unique individual, and daring to be a nonconformist in pursuit of one's goals: "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." For that reason, self-reliance requires courage. In contrast, ignoring one's God-given call, no matter how hard a person might try to run away from it, will leave that individual tormented. " A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work," but not otherwise. 

In a nutshell, the self-reliant person must work hard, have the courage to find and follow the path God has laid out for him, and have faith that the only real peace of mind comes from following one's destiny, no matter what it might be.  

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