Self-Reliance and Fredrick Douglass

Topics: Slavery, Slavery in the United States, Identity Pages: 4 (1561 words) Published: June 28, 2008
Emerson's idea of Self Reliance can be compared to the life of Fredrick Douglass. Douglass' life in captivity limited his choices for experience and kept him without material possessions. These are two factors considered by Emerson to be important in obtaining Self Reliance. Emerson's Self Reliance can also be contrasted to the life of Fredrick Douglass. Emerson's belief that all men should accept the place they were given in the world would not be true for Douglass. Fredrick Douglass himself, however, during his captivity used his own variety of Self Reliance to survive the violence and demeaning attitudes he was exposed to. Douglass needed to keep a clear view of his self throughout his captivity in order to keep his identity in tact.

"And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil institutions, as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other, by what each has, and not by what each is. . .. A political victory, the rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles." (Emerson).

This selection from the essay Self Reliance, stresses the importance of breaking away from material possessions in order to find what the function of the self truly is. Emerson believed that people were living a pre-formulated variety of life. People did not realize that the choices they had were really limiting them." Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil...
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