Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” embodies some of the most prominent themes of the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century. First published in 1841, “Self-Reliance” advocates for individualism and encourages readers to trust and follow their own instincts and intuition rather than blindly adhere to the will of others. The writing is elegant and poetic; its concepts timeless and words pure. Emerson draws supporting examples from a range of major historical figures, from Aristotle to Napoleon Bonaparte, to show how their success and genius came from originality and innovation, instead of conformity. With its most early conception coming shortly after the death of his wife, “Self-Reliance” manifests feelings of hope and optimism that could seldom be expected at a time of such despair. Emerson doesn’t withhold from letting his readers know the true value they have to offer the world, asserting that self-reliance serves as a beginning point for a more efficient, productive society.

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