Ralph Waldo Emerson: Biography Review

According to (Kenneth,2003), Ralph Emerson was an American poet, philosopher as well as and essayist who first served in Boston as a minister but later became a famous lecturer and an essay writer with some of his essays being on Self Reliance, Fate, over-Soul, and History. Emerson drew his knowledge and way of thinking from Neoplatonism, Hinduism, Kantianism, as well as Romanticism. Through his writings; he influenced so many Americans who follow his trend of themes like fate and uses of history among others.

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Throughout his writings, Emerson is viewed to be inconsistent and this can be seen when he talks about the world being a fundamental process and then describes it as a fundamental unity. Process and unity are used differently in the description of the world and should not be used together. He goes on to argue that the world does not allow us to impose our will then contradicts the statement by saying that the same world flows with our imagination power. The importance of travel is also contradicted by Emerson when he talks of travel being important as it helps us become experienced. On the contrary, Emerson talks about travel not helping us in any way since our being in a place does not make any changes to our sad self. There are also contradictions between Emerson’s late and early writings, for example, the contradiction between the early essay on nature and the late one on experience. Emerson talks of nature as being the very first to exist and that it will always remain. He says that nature is characterized by laws that also form the human mind’s laws. (Richard, 1987)

Emerson argues that a pupil should not be followed up by the teacher so as to become productive but should be left alone to give a nature’s product. The pupil should also discover a secret of his own and should be guided to retrieve new power that exists in him/her. Education’s main objective is maintaining the nature of a child when it is armed with enough knowledge it carries wherever it goes. Emerson contradicts his idea of letting nature have its ways of bringing developments in the life of young people, by arguing that through experience young people promising a different world, end up failing to achieve their dreams of life. In his essay on the experience, Emerson argues that our destiny is a sad one since we are obscured as well as dislocated. When our lives are filled with events and happenings that confine us to the average standards of living, we eventually get defeated. Therefore, experience and nature are contradicted with nature being described as buoyant promising a better future to genius young people while experience is described to provide a weary ending to the same young people. (Kenneth, 2003)

(Richard, 1987) argues that, while Emerson was writing about Self reliance he was very expansive but when he started writing about the fate he became burdened. In Emerson’s early writings he makes us understand positive power to be all that life is about but he later argues that half the power we experience is negative. His contrary tendency makes us wonder whether Emerson had not understood how different circumstances of fate constrain self-development while he was writing his early essays. However, Emerson accepts the contrary tendencies where he becomes irresponsible to anything that would hinder him from developing and describes himself as an experimenter who does not carry his life around but leaves it behind himself.


Kenneth S. (2003): Understanding Emerson the American Scholar and his struggle for self –reliance: Princeton University Press.

Richard P. (1987): The Renewal of literature on Emerson’s Reflections: Random House.

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