American Lit Emerson

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Self-Reliance and Nature

The opening paragraph to Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” essay is fascinating because of the many different points of view he writes from. He goes from using the pronoun “I” to “you” to “they” to “we” and this is symbolic because he starts by talking about himself then by the end of the paragraph he puts himself and his audience in the same category. The first three sentences are in first person and he writes as though he is addressing an audience. The fourth sentence presents an immediate change in point of view. From the fourth sentence to midway through the paragraph, the viewpoint is in second person. When Emerson writes, “To believe in your own thought, to believe what is true for you…” (Emerson, 132) it seems as though he is speaking to an individual across the table almost in a one on one conversation. His use of the word “your” and “you” is very direct within the context. With the words chosen, it seems as though Emerson is directing a talk to specific person. As the paragraph reads on, his point of view switches again; however, this time it changes to third person. He no longer addresses the reader as “you” and instead he addresses the reader as “they.” His use of pronouns is evident when he writes, “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty” (Emerson, 132). By using pronouns such as “we,” Emerson no longer addresses a single person and talks to the readers like they are one united group.

The opening paragraphs to “Nature” are different than the opening paragraph to “Self-Reliance” because Emerson does not flip-flop from one point of view to another and instead focuses more on imagery and tone. Emerson uses descriptive mental imagery to help the reader understand his points and arguments. When he writes, “But ever night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile” (Emerson, 5) he creates a fantastic mental image in...
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