Critical Evaluation – "Self-Reliance" - Emerson

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Idea Pages: 2 (823 words) Published: April 27, 2011
The essay “Self-Reliance”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is a persuasive essay promoting the ways of transcendentalism. He uses this paper as a proponent to edify and advance a major point using a structure that helps his argument. In the paper, Emerson begins his concluding thoughts with a statement that greater self-reliance will bring a revolution, and then applies this idea to society and all of its aspects, including religion, education, and art. This brings Emerson to a new, more precise focus on how “society never advances; rather it recedes on one side as fast as it gains on the other.” The final result is a conglomeration of redundant ideas into the major points that, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” This shocking, yet intriguing, idea is supported and augmented using tone, universal themes, metaphor, example, and the consequence of ignoring his opinion. The use of language, sentence length and structure, as well as many other factors set the tone of this paper. The final result is a paper that has a conciliatory tone. A paper written in this authoritative style is helpful in persuasion. It pulls the reader into the author’s ideas, making them your own. The tone of the paper thus allows for metaphors to be extremely powerful in promoting Emerson’s ideas. The metaphors are numerous throughout the paper; however there is one towards the end of the paper that really helps to shape the essay. “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.” The clear metaphor of society to the wave and the particles of water to the people distinctively demonstrate Emerson’s idea that “society never advances.” If a man is not self-confident and is unable to share himself with others, as people die so too will their experience. But the ability to be self-reliant eliminates this loss of experience; “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”...
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