Self-trust and individualism in The American Scholar

The American Scholar” is an oration addressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) on August 31, 1837, to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, we find the basis of the concept of ‘self-trust’ and individualism. Let’s see this. 

More Notes: The American Scholar

Emerson claims that a scholar must have complete confidence in himself and never heed popular opinions. He should have the confidence to think that he knows the world correctly and will not be swayed from his beliefs by mere appearance or widespread propaganda. This self-trust includes all the other virtues.  He should go on observing men and the life around him. In understanding his own mind, he would realize all minds and thus would be the lord and master of those with whom he has to deal. People will then listen to him with pleasure and find that he has expressed their innermost thoughts and sentiments. This would give him power over the hearts and minds of men, and they would listen to him and be guided by him. This is the secret of the success of great poets and orators.  

More Notes: Suggestions

Emerson has also given importance to another sign of his time, individualism. All that surrounds the man with the barrier of natural honor so that he regards the world as his own; every such thing lends to greatness and a true union between man and man. No man in this world is either willing or able to help any other man. Help must come from one’s own bosom alone. The scholar is that man who “must take up all the ability of the time, all the contribution of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be a university of knowledge.” He is a man who has understood that the world is nothing and that man is all important. Through his efforts and courage, he must bring about the union of man with man and with Nature and God. 

To conclude, it is evident that the concept of self-trust and individualism is clear in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work. Through this concept, he provides his philosophical views on life. He believes that humans have remarkable abilities, more than they can recognize.  With these powers, a person should govern himself, not be governed by society. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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