What are the duties of the American Scholar

 Or, Emerson gives the picture of an ideal scholar who is a man of thinking and of action. Discuss. 

Or, Emerson’s idea of a scholar is revolutionary. Do you agree? 


The concept of the American Scholar is indeed a revolutionary one. Traditionally a scholar was thought of as a valetudinarian, (a person who is unduly anxious about their health) a man of study, not of action. Emerson’s concept sharply contrasts with the traditional one. His scholar is a man of study, of thinking, as well as of action. His duty is to bring about a cultural revolution in America. 

An announcer of the present 

The American Scholar is a man of thinking. He goes through a long period of study. He does not aspire to immediate fame but is ready to accept poverty and solitude. He communicates heroic sentiments, noble biographies, etc. He proclaims the verdict of reason on the men and events of his time. 

More Notes: The American Scholar

Work for the people not for fame  

According to the author, the American Scholar discovers facts amidst appearances. He follows the slow and unhonoured task of observation, Astronomers observe the stars from their observatories and get fame and honour from the people, but the Scholar observes human minds from his mental observatory. He watches days and nights for a few facts sometimes. He corrects still his old records. He must relinquish display and immediate fame. He must accept poverty and solitude: He has to stand sometimes in hostility to society, especially to an educated society. He is to find consolation, for his loss and scorn by society, in exercising the highest functions of human nature.  

Based on man-thinking  

The American Scholars raise themselves from private considerations and breathe and live on public and illustrious thoughts. He receives and imparts the oracles of the human heart in all emergencies and solemn hours. The American Scholar is confident. He does not care for any popular opinions. He is not carried away by popular propaganda. As he knows himself, he believes that he can know all. 

Based on positive qualities 

Bravery and freedom are the accompanying qualities of his self-confidence. According to his belief, he knows that self-confidence comprises all other virtues. He is aware that fear springs from ignorance, so A removes, or makes an endeavour to remove ignorance. He investigates the nature of danger and controls it. He knows that the basis of self-confidence is the reason which is deeper than being fathomed. “In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended. Free should the scholar be free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, “without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution. It is a shame for him if his tranquillity amid dangerous times arises from his presumption that his class is protected. 

Practising cultural- revolution  

To bring about a cultural revolution is the main duty of the American Scholar. He lifts men from the state of degradation that hero worship leads to and wakes men to their individual dignity. He makes efforts towards the building up of the individual. He realises that one man comprehends the particular natures of all men. The spirit of one man pours itself out into all men growing larger and larger. His cultural revolution affects the improvement of all individual men. 


To sum up, it may comment that Emerson has thus described the chief qualities of the American Scholar who should be an ideal American and should build an America which will be an ideal nation, and a torch-bearer to the other nations of the world. Such an idea of the American Scholar is a revolutionary one indeed. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

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

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