The entire article on self-reliance by Waldo emphasizes on the needto rely on one’s own thoughts and knowledge instead of relying onother people’s opinions and ideas. Waldo believes that relying onone’s own knowledge and intelligence is genius. Waldo calls onpeople to believe and trust themselves and to ignore what otherpeople think or what opinions they hold about them (Emerson, 1841).It is clear from the reading that Waldo believes that people shouldnot rely on the judgment of other people and he calls such peoplecowards who have no inspiration and hope. The element ofself-reliance is the ability to rely and depend on one’s ownknowledge to make person decisions and judgments.

According to Waldo, adults are more often than not concerned withwhat other people think about them. It is clear from the reading thatthe adults are concerned with what other people think about themsince they are looking for approval and creating a reputation. As aresult, these adults are unable to act spontaneously and genuinely.They act in such a way to impress the society and the people aroundthem (Emerson, 1841). They often do not rely on their own judgments,but largely depend on the opinion of others about themselves. Waldocalls upon such people to act like children. Children are said to bespontaneous and genuine. Waldo asserts that the young children aretoo young to be hypocritical and therefore they act genuinely withoutany regard to the opinions of their friends.

Another argument that is presented by Waldo is that of conforming tothe demands of the society. It is clear from the reading that thesociety demands as a person matures, he or she should conform to thedemands of the society and should conform to the ways of the society.The society believes that it is evil for a person to follow one’sinner conviction and voice. Waldo is totally against this form ofconformity and states that a person can only be a man if he is anonconformist (Emerson, 1841). This is a clear indication that inthis article, Waldo is more concerned with what individuals believein rather than what the crowd or the society thinks. He advocates forpeople to do things individually as opposed to doing communally. Inother words, it is abundantly clear that Waldo is opposed to the ideaof thinking as a group. Waldo argues that people who conform topublic opinion lose their ability to be unique (Emerson, 1841). It isuseful, according to Waldo that people be unique and have theirunique contributions to the society. Additionally, relying on theopinions of the society erodes away peoples’ personality andtherefore it should be absolved.

Waldo is opposed to the idea of people remaining stagnant with thesociety simply because they are following the societal laws. Heasserts that people should act in self-reliance and this would leadthe development of virtues and nobleness. Whereas the society mayconsider self-reliant and individualistic individuals as beingselfish and self-indulgent, it is evident from the article that theself-reliant people gain knowledge. This is a virtue that the othermembers of the society who conform to the laws of the society do notgain. It is clear that this knowledge brings power to animate socialissues (Emerson, 1841). Self- reliance, according to the author ofthe article, ensures that an individual is truthful, honest and hasintegrity. This is a clear indication of the benefits of relying onone’s belief, wisdom and knowledge as opposed to acting with theintention of pleasing other people.

Waldo continues to state that there are individuals who are led bythe desires of the society. They are the non-individualistic and thenon-self-reliant individuals who are lazy and act for theresponsibility of the society. In other words, Waldo describes thesepeople as the ones who act according to the opinions of others(Emerson, 1841). They do not act according to their own intelligenceand knowledge, but depend on the opinions of the society to shapethem. With regard to art, the author states that many people dependon what has already been done and read a lot of books. These arepeople who cannot believe in themselves. They rely on the knowledgeof other people which has already been written. Waldo is totallyagainst this generation of people who he says cannot be self-reliant(Emerson, 1841). He says these are people who are followers ratherthan originators of ideas. The author of the article is opposed tothe idea of having to read books, but asserts that people should beoriginators of their own ideas and opinions. Waldo argues that theeducation system has failed terribly since it teaches the young mindsto imitate other people.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is a proponent of self-reliance. According toEmerson, it is inappropriate for people to act according to thedesires of the society. He asserts that people should act accordingto their own intelligence and knowledge. The society demands peopleto conform to its way of life and its laws. However, Waldo arguesthat when people follow the society and abide to its opinions anddesires, they fail to grow and generate their own unique ideas(Emerson, 1841). This leads to the development of a society that isstagnant. He calls upon people to believe in themselves and believein what they do. This is the message across the entire article called by Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Emerson, R. W. (1841). . Retrieved from: