Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass were two very important figures in American history. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a philosopher and writer who helped to shape the ideas of the Transcendentalist movement. Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist and human rights activist. Both men had a lot to say about self-reliance, and their beliefs about this topic shaped their actions and perspectives.
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that every person has the potential to be great if they tap into their own inner strength and resources. He believed that reliance on others is a crutch that prevents people from reaching their full potential. Frederick Douglass, on the other hand, was initially skeptical of self-reliance because he had experienced firsthand the ways in which white people could use their power to exploit and control black people. However, after gaining his freedom, Douglass came to see self-reliance as a necessary tool for survival and success.
Both Emerson and Douglass believed that society needed to change in order to allow all people to reach their full potential. Emerson advocated for individualism and self-reliance as a way to challenge societal norms and expectations. Douglass argued that slavery needed to be abolished so that black people could be free to pursue their own lives with dignity and respect. Both men were committed to social reform and used their beliefs about self-reliance to further their cause.
After getting acquainted with “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” it’s impossible to ignore the trend in what both writers see as integral for a happy and self-fulfilling life: acquiring knowledge. Neither Emerson nor Douglass sugarcoat their opinion that if we want to live satisfying lives, gaining insight is key.
Emerson states that people should “insist on themselves” and not let others dictate who they are or what they should think. Douglass writes that acquiring knowledge is what helped him to escape from slavery, and ultimately gave him the ability to help other slaves gain their freedom.
While Emerson and Douglass both advocate for self-reliance and self-improvement, there are a few key differences in their views. Emerson seems to emphasize more of an individualistic approach, while Douglass includes the idea of helping others as a means of achieving one’s goals.
Emerson also focuses on the importance of thinking for oneself, whereas Douglass highlights the value of education and knowledge acquisition. Overall, both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass believe that self-reliance is key to a fulfilling life, but they have different ideas about what that entails.
Despite the fact that both men agree on several points, their ideas about the type of knowledge needed to be acquired diverge; it’s Emerson who pushes us to grow our souls, while Douglass encourages us to develop our minds. One of the first things that Emerson wanted to express was that we should trust in what we believe is true for ourselves rather than listening to what other people think.
Emerson states, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,-that is genius” (Emerson). In other words, if one always listens to others and never takes the time to figure out what they think, they will never be able to develop their own genius.
However, Douglass has a different perspective when it comes to knowledge. Douglass believes that knowledge should come from books and other people instead of from within oneself. He says, “I would at once argue myself into the belief that nothing had ever been greater than I was” (Douglass). In this quote, Douglass is saying that if he only listened to his own thoughts, he would become arrogant and believe that he is better than everyone else.
Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass had different views when it came to self-reliance and knowledge. Emerson believed that one should develop their own thoughts and not listen to others, while Douglass thought that knowledge should come from books and other people. In the end, both of these men had different opinions on the same issue, but they were both great thinkers in their own right.
Emerson is saying that the world’s opinion is what society thinks as a whole, and he also uses the word “opinion” to mean one’s view or judgment. Furthermore, Emerson implies that people in today’s society need time alone to think for themselves, away from outside influences.
In other words, Emerson is saying that it is better to be alone and form your own opinions, than to go along with the crowd. This idea is at the heart of self-reliance.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was born in 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts, and died in 1882 at the age of 79.
Frederick Douglass was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. He was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland around 1818, and died in 1895 at the age of 77.
Emerson and Douglass both advocated for self-reliance, though they approached it from different angles. Emerson believed that self-reliance was the key to individualism, while Douglass saw it as a way to achieve social reform.
Both Emerson and Douglass were great thinkers who had a lot to say about self-reliance. Here are some of their most famous quotes on the subject:
“To be great is to be misunderstood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
Once Douglass learned how to read and write, he realized the harsh reality of his situation. If he had never learned those skills, he would have remained ignorant to the slaveholders’ wrongdoings. He concludes from this experience that “truth has a power over even a slaveholder’s conscience” (Douglass 84).
In learning how to read and write, Ralph Waldo Emerson found his own power of truth. Emerson was an abolitionist and helped Douglass in his escape from slavery. In a letter to Douglass, Emerson wrote, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career (Emerson).” Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass both believed in the power of truth and self-reliance.