What writer does Mr. Norton talk about with the narrator?

Mr. Norton talks with the narrator about the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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As the narrator drives Mr. Norton around, the older man asks if he has read Ralph Waldo Emerson. When the narrator says he has not, Mr. Norton is surprised and says he must read him. Mr. Norton continues by stating that like himself, Emerson is from New England. He tells...

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As the narrator drives Mr. Norton around, the older man asks if he has read Ralph Waldo Emerson. When the narrator says he has not, Mr. Norton is surprised and says he must read him. Mr. Norton continues by stating that like himself, Emerson is from New England. He tells the narrator that Emerson had a "hand" in the "destiny" of Black people, apparently referring to Emerson's abolitionist work, just as Mr. Norton believes he has. He then says,

I had a feeling that your people were somehow connected with my destiny. That what happened to you was connected with what would happen to me ...

The allusions to Emerson are cryptic and comic in their vagueness and pomposity. Mr. Norton seems to be referring to Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance." In this work, Emerson states that every man has a destiny that only his own soul can reveal to him and that once a person finds this destiny, he must stick to it if he wants to make a difference in the world.

Mr. Norton appears to have taken these words to heart and, in a narcissistic way, decided that his destiny was tied up with helping the college, which he believes is helping Black people. Actually, however, he is perpetrating the racist status quo by supporting a college that trains Black people to be subservient. In any case, the destiny of Black people in Mr. Norton's mind has little to do with Black people themselves (he doesn't even bother to learn the narrator's name) and everything to do with his own ego.

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