Comparing Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

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  • Topic: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Simple living
  • Pages : 2 (892 words )
  • Download(s) : 400
  • Published : May 6, 2012
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In many works of literature, authors express their viewpoints on society and times in which they live. In the essay “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau, the authors speak out against conformity and materialism in society. Both were romanticism authors during the 1800s. They focused on simplicity and individuality. Both writings can advise teenagers today on the importance of non-conformity and the value of rejecting materialism. In “Self Reliance”, Emerson discusses being one’s own person and not allowing society to mold someone like a piece of clay; “Trust thyself” are the exact words he used. Trusting oneself means it is okay to be different if one wants or chooses to be different. It means that one does not have to follow the “bad” crowd just because everyone else may be choosing to do so. One must know that if they have a good idea and if they believe in that idea--even if it is different from the norm of society--some people will follow. Emerson also says, “Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist.” This means that to be a true and real person, one must stand up for what they believe in and not allow themselves to be completely changed by society. One must not conform to ways that will cause them to be someone or something outside of their own desires. In the beginning of his writing, Emerson gives us a definition of what he believes defines genius: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.’’ This is his way of saying that every person should know that doing what one thinks is right is the best decision—for him/herself. Every educated person does not conform to society if they do not think that society is going in the right path. Emerson also says that people who have good ideas are misunderstood. In his statement, “To be great is to be misunderstood”, Emerson is saying that most people who had great ideas in...
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