Themes in Self-Reliance

Self - Reliance 3
"a new system..."   (Self - Reliance)

Each of the aforementioned people all created new systems of thought or scientific reasoning. Emerson chooses these specific people to highlight his idea because the lack of preexisting fields of thought and study, does not mean they do not exist or cannot be thought up.

"“without abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries and carriages, until, in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive his supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill and bake his bread himself.”..."   (Self - Reliance)

Emmanuel Las Casas (1766–1842) was a French historian and author most famous for his book about Napoleon, The Memorial of Saint Helena. This quote serves as a metaphor for one of Emerson's main claims in this essay: "to make a perfect army" every soldier would have to learn how to do everything involved in the battle from scratch (even manufacturing guns), instead of being given the guns ready to shoot.

"To be great is to be misunderstood..."   (Self - Reliance)

The preceding list only includes men who introduced seemingly brand new ideas into society. Whether their ideas were disputed by common belief or had never been thought of before, Emerson uses these men to exemplify that the greatest minds don’t learn their greatness from previously provided information, but instead they acquire it from their innate ability to think and act independently of the common fields of thought.