Dive into Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”: Insights, Analysis, and Discussion

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” recapitulate the ideas of Nature? You might look for passages in “Self-Reliance” that seem to echo Nature and consider 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?

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?


  1. Mixkino on August 11, 2018 at 2:46 am

    The first hint of the philosophy that would become “Self-Reliance” was presented by Ralph Waldo Emerson as part of a sermon in September 1830 a month after his first marriage.

  2. Richard Hampton on April 4, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    Hello, and off topic…I have a book from one of my ancestors, entitled ‘Essays by RWE /First and second series. I can find no copyright date, and the publisher is A. L. Burt, New York. It’s obviously old, but how old, and is it valuable to anyone? Thank you for any and all information.

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