Self-Reliance Questions and Answers
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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What, in your opinion, is the message of Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance"?

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In "Self-Reliance," Emerson advises young people to follow the promptings of their own inner voice—the voice of the divine inward light that will guide them to their true destiny in life. He writes:

Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that.

He tells young people not to conform to what society, their parents, books, or tradition tell them they ought to be or do. They need to cast all those voices aside and follow what their own soul urges.

Emerson says following the inward voice is what all truly great people have always done, such as Socrates and Jesus. These are the people who have genuinely contributed to society and helped it advance. He says that if people today have the strength of their convictions and follow the path that they know in their hearts is right for them, other people will, in the end, come to respect that.

Emerson is forceful in his rejection of convention as a guide to vocation. Instead, he advises people to follow his lead:

What I must do, is all that concerns...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 643 words.)

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