What warning does Emerson issue in Self- Reliance, paragraph 30?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Paragraph 30, Emerson suggests that there should be a fear of living in accordance to the needs of another.  Emerson's warning is to limit the growth of the desire to appease others at the cost of the individual's voice:  "Check this lying hospitality and lying affection.  Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse."  Emerson warns against a life predicated upon conformity and silencing individual voice for the expectations of others.  For Emerson, there is a fundamental fear in living a life where there is a lack of "speaking the truth."  Emerson's warning is to avoid this condition.  

Emerson sees a problem in the modern predicament when individuals "break" themselves for another person.  This desire to conform and to follow the herd of society is something that Emerson warns the reader against.  He suggests that this extends even in the realm of family.  Emerson suggests that individuals honor their families, but not at the cost of their own voice and identity:  "I appeal from your customs.  I must be myself.  I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier."  For Emerson, the warning against conformity applies to how individuals see themselves in society and even within their own homes, in the gaze of loved ones.  Emerson argues and affirms the idea that individual voice should never leave the individual consciousness.  The lives individuals live in the modern setting are domains where Emerson sees this voice lacking. Preventing this is the warning that Emerson issues in Paragraph 30.

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