What is Emerson asserting in this statement? "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

What Emerson is asserting in this statement is the necessity of thinking independently, of maintaining one's integrity in the midst of society. Emerson is trying to steer a middle course between conforming to society's opinions and living in solitude with our own. Instead, he argues that the true hallmark of greatness is to live the life of an individual within society.

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This quote comes from Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance." In this essay, originally a speech given to college graduates, Emerson urges young people on the cusp of adult life to look inward rather than outward to find their God-given paths. They should, Emerson asserts, rely on their own soul's guidance over tradition or convention or what their parents want.

While it is best for one to examine one's own soul to find one's life path, Emerson also warns that this way of life is "arduous," or hard. He says in the above quote that two paths are easier than the one he advises. It is easy, first, to do what the world deems valuable ("live after the world's opinion") and also easy to follow one's unusual destiny in solitude, but the "great man" follows his unique destiny amid the conventional people who will criticize and judge him.

This quote is important because it points to the reason behind relying on the "iron string" of trusting one's own inner voice. Emerson preaches nonconformity not because it is a selfish way of indulging oneself, but because it serves the greater good of humanity. You don't follow this path for yourself, but for others. He mentions a list of nonconformists who changed the world for the better, such as Jesus, Socrates, Galileo, and Newton. They made the greatest possible impact on society because they refused to go off in solitude. Instead, they lived in the midst of society and accepted the suffering that path brought.

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In this statement, Emerson is giving a counsel of perfection about how to live in the world. His first assertion is quite straightforward. It is easy either to do what everyone else thinks best or to withdraw from society and follow your own course. The path of greatness, however, is to maintain your independence without withdrawing. This requires strength, since others are perpetually trying to influence you to abandon your principles. However, it is the only way you will be of use to society, since you can use your independent judgment for good, either as a leader or as an example, neither of which can be accomplished in seclusion.

There is a second assertion, however, which is not so clearly stated but is implicit in the words "with perfect sweetness." If you do maintain your integrity in the midst of a crowd, it is all too easy to despise the crowd. One might follow the advice contained in Emerson's first assertion and still become a harsh and bitter character, continually inveighing against the corruption and stupidity around one. Emerson wants his readers to keep their integrity but also to keep their tempers and not to become embittered by continually opposing the views of the majority.

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Although Emerson and Thoreau can both be described as Transcendentalists, this particular quotation from the former illustrates a key difference between them. Whereas Thoreau believed it was necessary to go off and lead an isolated life away from society in order to maintain one's integrity and individuality, Emerson understood that some kind of social existence was necessary.

Even so, Emerson continues to maintain that the individuality and personal integrity that Thoreau and others found in solitude can still be retained, even in the midst of modern society, with all its hustle and bustle and its mindless conformity. To be sure, this would be an extraordinarily difficult feat to achieve, but that only serves to highlight the greatness of those who actually manage to achieve it. To accomplish such an onerous task isn't for everyone.

What Emerson is attempting here is to steer a middle course between unthinking conformity to society and its often false opinions, and going off and living alone in order to keep hold of one's integrity. True greatness, argues Emerson, lies in a synthesis of the two: living in society but without simply going along with what everyone is thinking, and thinking for oneself but without having to cut oneself off from society as Thoreau had done.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was the father of transcendentalism, which focuses on concepts like individualism and moral protest.

These concepts are quite fitting with the quote at hand, which is basically saying that life's biggest challenge is to hold on to your beliefs and values while you are in the middle of a crowd of people who may not share these values.

The first part of the quote reads "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion", which is implying that if you agree with the opinions of others, then it is easy to be with others. It then goes on to explain that if you are on your own, then it is easy to hold on to your own beliefs and principles.

The challenge, as explained in the last part of this quote, is to be in the midst of a crowd and still adhere to your own beliefs as you would if you were in a state of solitude.

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The basic premise of the quote is that there is a greater sense of character within the individual who is able to maintain their own sense of character and integrity in a world that might speak otherwise.  Emerson's primary assertion is one that stresses that independence of thought should be a constant, even when all other voices around the individual speaks to the contrary.  For Emerson, the approach of his contemporary, Thoreau, is an admirable one, but one that does fully take into account that individuals must live in a social setting amongst individuals.  At some level, being able to isolate oneself in a complete sense is not practical.  However, if one can maintain one's own sense of identity and independence while being immersed in a social setting.  In this light, individuals must find a balance between being dependent on others in a social sense, while maintaining their own sense of independence from the opinions of others.

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