Self-Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The author. Emerson’s voice in this essay is a confident one that makes controversial and provocative statements designed to move the reader to listen to his or her own voice and ignore societal pressures. Emerson’s… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
The Individual
The audience for Emerson’s essay. “The individual” refers to ordinary Americans whose intuition is constantly assaulted by self-doubt and societal pressures. Emerson exhorts the individual to reject these pressures and to achieve greatness by becoming self-reliant and trusting in intuition.
Society
The enemy of self-reliance. Society pressures individuals to conform to social norms that oppress them. To Emerson, society is worthy of scorn.