What is the relevance of this "The American Scholar" quote: "Books are the best of things, well used; abused among the worst."I'm more interested in how its pertinent to works by Emerson, Melville,...

What is the relevance of this "The American Scholar" quote: "Books are the best of things, well used; abused among the worst."

I'm more interested in how its pertinent to works by Emerson, Melville, and Douglass.

Expert Answers
stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote is expressing the opinion that books and the inspiration or knowledge contained in them may be used for great purposes, but may also be the cause of great harm.  Relating this statement to the three authors you referenced, the writings of Douglass were regarded as inspirational and essential to the movement by those who hoped to abolish slavery; supporters of slavery questioned their authorship and decried their content.  Emerson's essays encouraged those moving toward transcendentalist philosophies but were regarded as a threat by those concerned with maintaining a well-organized social structure.  Melville's writings contained language that some readers considered highly inappropriate for proper society.