“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance;that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”

Although this is not the quote I have chosen, it equally expresses Emerson’s purpose for writing “Self Reliance.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson sure does have a way with words. In his essay, “Self Reliance” one quote in particular stuck out to me. The quote I have as my title is one of the many I had to contemplate whether or not I wanted to use. To me, if this quote does not speak to everyone as soon as they read it, there is something wrong. It applies to everyone because, whether we want to admit it or not, we would all like to be just like someone else. Personally, I think Emerson realized this too and decided to be very blunt with this quote. He states, that everyone reaches a point in their life when they realize envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide, and that every person must take himself, good or bad, for what he is worth. Emerson is saying that it is dangerous for us to wish to be like someone else. He thinks we should realize that we are our own person, good or bad, but we have to accept it or we will never make it anywhere in life. In the last part of the quote, Emerson says, “though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” In my opinion, the direction he is taking here is to explain that of a person is not using the resources he or she has now, how can they expect anything more to come to them? The whole basis of the essay “Self Reliance,” is to inform people of the importance they have within themselves. We should take advantage of it and use it for good in the world.

The following video, briefly describes Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance” by shortening and providing the main purpose of it.

During the time period this essay was written, more specifically 1838, people were not so sure of themselves. They felt very insecure about who they were as individuals and even as Americans. People were not happy with how they were succeeding in life, or if they were even succeeding at all. This idea of Transcendentalism that Emerson created, grabbed their attention because it was exactly what they needed to hear. Not only did this essay become a cultural Declaration of Independence, but it also was an exhortation just to simply believe in yourself. Although as we look at it today, the entire essay seems cliche and somewhat repetitive. During this time of self doubt though, Emerson was right on track to delivering what the nation needed.

Reading “Self Reliance” with the mentality of today, most young people will feel like they are being beat over the head with a hammer saying “believe in yourself!” You can do it!” In all reality, the young people of today should listen to it the most. Perhaps young people aren’t dealing with the same problems as the audience back in 1838 were dealing with, but they still struggle just much. Everyone is insecure, whether it be in the way you look or what you do. That is one thing in the world that is not going to change. All throughout psychology books today, you will find some of the same things Emerson stated. Obviously someone thought they were important and still needed to be shared today.



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