Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in Self-Reliance

Vocabulary Examples in Self-Reliance:


🔒 13

"A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza;..."   (Self-Reliance)

An acrostic stanza is a poem in which letters from each line form a word that can be read vertically on the page. Notice how Emerson consistently reinforces his main argument; here he supports it with the idea that humans have only their nature, no matter how they act it will never change. Notice the subtle use of alliteration, one of Emerson’s preferred rhetorical devices.

"antinomianism..."   (Self-Reliance)

Antinomianism—meaning, from its Greek derivations, “against laws”—is a belief that moral and ethical laws ought to be considered flexible rather fixed, objective, and universal.

"the Doric or the Gothic model..."   (Self-Reliance)

Doric and Gothic are two different styles of architecture. Doric is an ancient Greek style recognizable by circular caps at the tops of fluted pillars. Gothic style came about during the 12th century in Europe and can be recognized by flying buttresses and sharply pointed arches.

"when my genius calls me..."   (Self-Reliance)

The notion of the “genius” comes from Roman mythology. The ancient Romans believed that each person is accompanied through life by a guardian spirit, known as the “genius.” The word derives from the Indo-European root gen-, which means “birth.” In Emerson’s use, the “genius” is the productive source of creative work.

"Bivouac..."   (Self-Reliance)

A “bivouac” is a temporary encampment that uses a triangular tent. This was an innovative addition to the French military repertoire because it allowed troops to both set up and pack up camp quickly if need be.

"“Thy lot or portion of life,” said the Caliph Ali, “is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after if.”..."   (Self-Reliance)

This can be paraphrased to mean that your life is seeking you, so you don’t have to seek after it. Again notice how Emerson ties his ideas and references back to one’s self. Here, Emerson tell us that we don’t have to look into ourselves for answers and for our meaning in life because if we simply live our lives and follow our paths those answers will be given.

"An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man..."   (Self-Reliance)

All of the references in the following list are movements or religions started by one man alone. The “lengthened shadow of one man” is a figure of speech that means one person’s ideas can start a movement that spreads over a large group of people.

"transcendent..."   (Self-Reliance)

The adjective “transcendent” refers to that which extends beyond the range of normal human experience. Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the leaders of the transcendentalist movement, a philosophical and literary movement in the 19th century that supported a new way of thinking that argued for individualism, nature, and free spirituality.

"parallax..."   (Self-Reliance)

A “parallax” is the difference in the position of an object as brought about by a new angle of view. In this context, Emerson uses “parallax” to show how everything must be looked at from a different point of view.

"Spartan fife..."   (Self-Reliance)

The “Spartan fife” was a small flute used by Spartan soldiers. Emerson contrasts the “Spartan fife” with “the gong for dinner” to symbolize that he wants to hear different ideas from society rather than the norm.

"blindman's-buff..."   (Self-Reliance)

Blindman’s-buff is a game similar to tag, but the person trying to catch the other players is blindfolded. This metaphor means that people who chose to conform to societal norms are simply living their life blindfolded, rather than opening their eyes and seeing the plethora of opportunities the world has to offer.

"bleeding..."   (Self-Reliance)

“Bleeding” was a common medical treatment during the 19th century that oftentimes used leeches to remove toxins and infections from a sick person. In this context, Emerson could have used the word “suffering” interchangeably to communicate the point that he would rather his life be easy and comfortable than constricted and full of hard, tedious work.

" Society is a joint-stock company..."   (Self-Reliance)

A joint-stock company is a company that allows people to buy stock in it; owners of the stock are then able to share in profits and losses. This metaphor means that people both benefit and suffer by living in a society.

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