Emerson‘s “Self-Reliance”

Emerson Self Reliance

How is this essay more focused than Nature? What seems to be the thrust of the discussion?

“Self-Reliance” was published five years after Nature; do you see any development in Emerson’s thought during that period, or does “Self-Reliance” just recapitulate the ideas of Nature? You might look for passages in “Self-Reliance” that seem to echo Nature, and think about whether they offer “new ideas” compared to the earlier formulation.

What distinguishes self-reliance from selfishness? Do you see any points in the essay where Emerson seems to cross this line?

Early in this essay, Emerson states, “imitation is suicide”; what do you think he means by this? How might we compare it with Ben Franklin’s stance that his life is “fit to be imitated”? Are these two positions fundamentally opposite, or is it possible to reconcile them?

What does Emerson say in this essay about philanthropy and charity? Do his arguments seem credible? Why or why not?

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