Ralph Waldo Emerson declares in "Self-Reliance" there is a higher merit we can ascribe and aspire to. These merits in man’s greatness are attributed not to conformity, but rather to originality. Nonconformity and discontinuity in a man’s approach to life are the doctrines advocated by Emerson in his work, while inwardly searching for personal truth. Although, Emerson employs a discontinuous literary style in his work, he revels in his lack of continuity to further broadcast his ideology of nonconformity and inconsistency. The lack of formal structure in the work enhances rather than inhibits the reader’s grasp of the literature. An examination of the work, however, suggests that nonconformity and discontinuity are the foundation to attaining these merits, highlighted by the work’s organization.
Emerson uses a discontinuous writing approach to highlight his philosophical beliefs, and the metaphors are numerous throughout the paper. However, paragraph 45 towards the end of his work shaped the essay’s view on society. “Society is a wave. The wave move onward, but the water of which it is composed does not” (Emerson 45). 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. “It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration.”(Emerson 45) It never advances because man is not self-confident and conforms to the guidelines set before him. Experience and progression are lost when man eliminates the ability to be self-reliant. Although this metaphor is strong enough on its own to provide all of the support necessary for the idea that society never advances, Emerson adds to it with his ideas on continuality in society.
Whereas, Emerson does provide for some structure in "Self-Reliance," complete...
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