• Alyssa Proctor

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an impactful and very remembered writer of the 19th century. He was a great writer whom was born in the year of 1803, and peacefully passed away in the year of 1882. Emerson was most famously known for his essay titled ‘Self-Reliance', which in conclusion believes that the sincerity and demeanor of oneself is entirely responsible for their afterlife status. The thinking process and opinions of Emerson are highly respected and considered to be some of the most influential literature of his time. He did not write literature to merely entertain his audience, and instead encourages them to think and depict themselves and their beliefs.


One of his greatest and most memorable works of literature, was an essay which is titled “Self-Reliance”. The readers’ beliefs and lifestyle choices are depicted within their own head while reading.

“Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” (Emerson 238)

People often compare themselves and their accomplishments to other individual, and sometimes make decision based off these circumstances alone. First of all, this may not be the decision or path which they would’ve chosen of it hadn’t have been for them caring about the opinions of other people first, and before their own desires. Emerson was rather passionate about proving how he did not believe that people should conform with the crowd, and simply be just like everyone else for the sake of fitting in. Being a distinct individual whom is not concerned about the opinions which others may have towards them, is a hard task place to come to, although it is rather rewarding when you finally reach it. For Emerson, he believed that it was important for people to try to ignore all outside sources of input when trying to seek happiness and a fulfilling life. This is true though, considering that you must be satisfied with your accomplishments in order to feel proud and successful.


When you are an independent individual you must enjoy the pleasure pf the benefits and the pain of consequences which are results of your choices. One important thing to try to remind yourself of is how,

"Emerson said that your mind is your own, and no one can touch it. You can think what you want to think, and no one can change that” (“A Discussion…”).

No one except for you can make your decisions, and life choices, you have free will and although that comes with much responsibility, it only enables us to become as capable and well off as we choose. Others cannot think for you therefore we must think for ourselves in order to decide what is best and appreciate the quality of freedom which you possess. “What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what the people think” (Emerson 239). Unfortunately, people will sometimes not be a fulfilled with themselves or reach becoming the highest version of themselves because they are holding back, out of being scared or hesitant of others thought. However, this makes it so that

“We but half express ourselves and are ashamed if that divine idea which each of us represents” (Emerson 237).

Do what you think is best for yourself, as others opinion and thoughts are forever changing and in the air, for “Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it” (Emerson 238).


When choosing whether or not an individual should return to college, to further enhance their education and knowledge they often must process the following thoughts. “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...” (Emerson 237). In all situations, another reason to not be concerned about what people think is to know that, “What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole” (Emerson 239). Don’t be hesitant, you should instead

“Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine. Providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connexion of events” (Emerson 237).

It is important through life to continue “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” (Emerson 236). Despite Emerson’s many broad beliefs, he was very consistent and stable in what he thought of himself and the circumstances which he would allow to influence his decisions.


In conclusion, Emerson was not concerned by the opinions which other people had developed towards him. He instead believed in traveling against the flow and achieving his own unique and a strategic identity. No matter what other people thought about Emerson, he continually remained true to himself and sustained happiness. One thing that we should try to learn from Emerson’s teachings and lessons, is how no matter what others think, and the end of the day you must live your own life and deal with the effects of your own decisions and lifestyle choices.


Works Cited


“A Discussion on His Beliefs and Thoughts.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 13 Feb. 2018, https://emersoncentral.com/discussion/discussion-of-emersons-beliefs-and-thoughts/.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, Beginnings to 1820, 9 ed., edited by Robert S. Levine, Norton, 2017, pp. 236-239.

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