Look inside yourSELF to be a scholar

In Ralph Emerson’s speech “The American Scholar”, he gives a surprising and new message to his Harvard student listeners. Emerson stresses to his audience what it truly means to be a scholar, however this definition of scholar isn’t what these students are. Emerson was transcendentalist himself, and his speech was full of transcendental themes as his definition of what a true scholar is was based on transcendental principles. Around paragraph 31 of his speech, Emerson begins to use the term ‘self’ such as “self-relying”, “self-trust”, and “self-directed”. Emerson is telling these listeners (students) that if they want to be the true scholars that they think they are, they need to think for themselves. This idea of self and Emerson’s emphasis on it reflects the overall message Emerson is trying to get across to the listeners. Emerson is trying to send a message to his listeners that they need to always remain independent in their thinking and in their actions. Although reading is good and necessary as Emerson says, he wants to stress to these students that they need to put the books down and stop glorifying these dead thinkers from Europe. In the eyes of Emerson, if you want to be a true scholar you need to develop your own thoughts in isolation in order to discover universal ideas. Emerson stresses the idea of self-trust and repeats it in the paragraph to show the listeners that this ‘truth’ is present in all of us and can be found if we look for it. Emerson is telling these students to stop glorifying the writers and thinkers of the books they’re reading and instead find their self-worth within themselves rather than these other thinkers. If we can understand the reasons Emerson emphasizes the sense of self and his transcendental background, we as readers can better understand Emerson’s definition of what a true scholar is.

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