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Emersons Individualism Throughout literary history Ralph Waldo Emerson has been considered one of the most influential writers of American Individualism Emerson defines individualism as mans ability to think for himself and to not rely on the past to direct his life Emersons essay Self-Reliance is based on this idea of individualism In this essay he expresses his disdain for mans dependence on traditional society Throughout Self-Reliance Emerson stresses the importance of nonconformity freedom of thought and individuality Emersons view of individuality begins with man thinking for himself and being his own person He believes American society stresses conformity Emerson believes one of the two major barriers to individuality is conformity Emerson says Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members Society is a joint stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater552 Society wants to control the individual and wants everyone to be alike Society wants to impose rules laws and government on its people so they can be puppet like Emerson says that man must overcome this desire to conform be his own person and rely on his own internal instincts Emerson goes on to say that what society is really after is conformity He says The virtue in most request is conformity Self-reliance is its aversion552 Society wants everyone to conform to the way it wants it to be whereas self-reliance wants man to be a unique individual and express his own thoughts with confidence Emerson says It is easy in the world to live after the worlds opinion it is easy in solitude to live after our own but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude554 He is saying it is easy to follow the worlds opinion and be a conformist It
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