Ralph Waldo Emerson

By: Isaac MIranda


Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in May 25, 1803, in Boston Massachusetts. HE died in April 27, 1882, in Concord Massachusetts. His an American Transcendentalist poet, philosopher an essayist during the 19th century. He attended the Boston Latin School, followed by Harvard University (from which he graduated in 1821)and the Harvard School of Divinity. Emerson married Ellen Tucker in 1829. When she died of tuberculosis in 1831, he was grief-stricken. Her death, added to his own recent crisis of faith, caused him to resign from the clergy.


In “Self-Reliance” Emerson defines individualism as a profound and unshakeable trust in one’s own intuitions. Embracing this view of individualism, he asserts, can revolutionize society, not through a sweeping mass movement, but through the transformation of one life at a time and through the creation of leaders capable of greatness

Today's Self-Reliance

the United States today is a society where so many people think that it is okay to march to their own drummer. In the old days, people seemed much more concerned with how society would see them. They did not dye their hair funny colors or get piercings in "weird" places. They did not get tattoos or engage in the kind of "look at me" celebrations that you see athletes doing from the pros down to high school.

You can argue that our society is so permissive today because of ideas like Emerson's. You can argue that his ideas make us all think we should do what we want to do without paying attention to what others think of us. To some extent, this is good, but I think we have gone a little too far and could use some more attention to common values and a little less emphasis on each person being their own person.

The driving force or primary motivation of Emerson's belief is that individuals think for themselves and not seek to follow a conformist social setting. This is expressed in many points in his writing: "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." This is something that we teach children from the earliest of ages in our schooling. We no longer teach kids that we come from a "melting pot" where everyone is homogenized and is the same. Rather, we instruct students as to their unique differences and we teach in curricular settings that are meant to laud and praise such level of difference: "Nothing is last scared by the integrity of your own mind." The essence of modern character education and development in our public schooling is to drive home the idea of difference and diversity, the main idea of Emerson's writing.