Summary of Emerson's essay Self reliance.

Summary of Emerson's essay Self Reliance 

Introduction : Emerson :-

Ralph Waldo Emerson, famously known as 'The Sage of Concord', was a renowned American Essayist, poet and a great literary figure. He was a philosopher also, whose works have a touch of transcendentalism. Through his works, he played a significant role in highlighting the issue of slavery as well as in its abolition. His essay Self Reliance is an important work which explains the value of independence of thought and having faith in one's own conscience.

Ralf Waldo Emerson
Summary of Emerson's essay Self reliance.
Born May 25, 1803, US
Died April 27, 1882, US
School Transcendentalism
Interest Individualism, nature, divinity, cultural criticism
Essays Self-Reliance, Compensation, The Over-Soul, Experience, The Transcendentalist, The Poet
Notable Ideas Self-reliance, transparent eyeball, double consciousness, stream of thought,
Era 19th century philosophy
Influences Coleridge, Plato, Shakespeare, Carlyle
Influenced Arnold, Thoreau, Lincoln, Nietzsche, Dickinson


Being a transcendentalist, his essay Self Reliance emphasises on individualism and the purity and goodness of abiding by one's soul. Published in 1941, the essay puts stress on being self reliant in thoughts and explores self-obediency and self sufficiency as a virtue. Emerson here argues that an individual should value his own insight even more than those of  popular writers and  philosophers. A mature thinker gives importance to the Originality of Thought rather than going with the tradition which every one believes.

इस आर्टिकल को हिन्दी में पढ़ने के लिए नीचे दी गई लिंक पर क्लिक करें:-Summary/ theme of Emerson's essay Self Reliance in Hindi.

Emerson believes that every man possesses the potential of great genius and deep thinking but it can only be realised by putting faith on oneself and embracing one's own insight and instincts. We should not neglect our own imaginations and strengths. We can see this in babies, children, teenagers and even in animals. They do not abide by the society and have faith on their own abilities. Like them we must embrace non-conformity and rely on ourselves for guidance.

Then Emerson examine the obstacles that complicate man's path to self reliance and his natural ability to think by himself.  Social conformity and compulsion for imitation and consistency are the biggest hurdles. Every great person in history had refused to be bounded by tradition and rigidity. A great person prefers solitude rather than being bounded by social rules and conventions. In doing this he is often misunderstood and disproved but he doesn't fear this disapproval and judgement.

Emerson also discusses his concerns about the negative impact of the conformity on American culture. Conformity and consistency has lead to small mindedness. He argues that every individual has personal relationship and involved with God and universe. We are connected with the underlying reality and our enlightenment starts from within ourselves. It is the path to the happiness and peace.

Emerson concludes his essays with a call for action to embrace self reliance and develop relationship with one's inner self. He argues that we should stop subordinating ourselves rather govern ourselves by our own intuition. Self reliance is the only way to meet our true potential and peace.


  1. Emerson as an Essayist.
  2. Yank as a Tragic hero.
  3. Walt Whitman as a poet of Democracy.
Frequently Asked Questions:-

1) Who were the two founding fathers of American transcendentalism?

Answer- Emerson and Thoreau.

2) Who created the philosophy of American transcendentalism?

Answer- Ralf Waldo Emerson followed by Henery David Thoreau.

3) What are the five pillars of transcendentalism?


  1. Self Reliance
  2. Connection to nature
  3. Free thought
  4. Non-conformity
  5. Confidence.

Next Post »

Your Views and Comments means a lot to us. ConversionConversion EmoticonEmoticon