Student Question

How can economic factors contradict Emerson's beliefs in "Self-Reliance"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ralph Waldo Emerson was fortunate enough to inherit money and live comfortably. However, his advice to follow one's own self-motivated desires could be difficult for someone who does not have inherited money. Emerson was able to follow his own desires and inclinations, and he was able to write in part because he had a comfortable inheritance. Most people, on the other hand, must work at jobs to survive, and working often involves quashing one's own desires and inclinations and adhering to the wishes of the supervisor or boss. Therefore, it is not always economically feasible to do as one wishes. In addition, one must live with family members and get along with members of the community and friends who don't always share the same beliefs; therefore, if one always expressed one's innermost whims, as Emerson advises in "Self-Reliance," one might find oneself without a place to live.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial