Write a critical review of Emerson's essay "SELF-RELIANCE"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his essay, "Self-Reliance:  Portable Property," B. L. Packer states that

The essay as it stands is a kind of gigantic coda to the work of Emerson's decade of challenge.

Certainly, its relevance is timeless, and it does reflect the Transcendental precept of the almost holy worth of the individual;  also, it contains timeless moral lessons. Perhaps more than ever, Americans should heed its warnings that individualism is essential to freedom as Emerson's essay has been likened to the message from the New Testament:

Matthew 16:26: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

For, the tendency of many to rely more on government than on themselves is, indeed, destructive to the sanctity of the individual, the "integrity of your own mind." In this day of political correctness and fear for one's job, few are willing to do what Emerson urges:  "Speak what you think now in hard words."  Still, Emerson's urgings are sound; reform cannot be made unless people address what problems really are, unless people speak freely in a society.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's message in "Self-Reliance" is as profoundly relevant as ever--if not more so.  However, his meanings are not divulged by definition, but by analogy, an method which makes the comprehension of his essay more difficult for his readers as he issues. Nevertheless, his commandment, "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist’’ permeates his essay. 


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