The American Scholar


Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Themes and Colors
Social Unity Theme Icon
Nature and Connection Theme Icon
Creation and National Identity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The American Scholar, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Social Unity

In his essay “The American Scholar,” Emerson urges his audience to remember that they are important parts of a larger whole and that, as scholars, they have a specific function in society: to facilitate unity. He asserts that all people, no matter their education or social standing, play equally important roles in creating and maintaining a successful society. As it is, however, Emerson says that society has become so divided that individuals have lost pride…

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Nature and Connection

In “The American Scholar,” Emerson emphasizes the particular role that nature has in a scholar’s development. Emerson believed that man was one with nature, and that by studying nature man could learn more about himself and all of mankind. America—as a new and vast country that was still being explored—offered ample opportunities for scholars to study and experience nature in a way that Europeans from smaller and more heavily-developed countries could not. By exploring and…

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Creation and National Identity

“The American Scholar” was written and presented in the 1830s, when America was in a state of transition. Having won independence and devoted its energies to the creation of a functioning system of government and legal system for 50 years, Americans were now at leisure to focus on forming an American identity. To Emerson, this meant forging an original literary and artistic identity separate from the traditional European ones that continued to dominate America’s…

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