Example Of The Concepts Of The Self And Self- Reliance In The 18th Century And The Revolutionary Period Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Life, Literature, Confidence, People, United States, Self-Reliance, Society, Time

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/09

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The concepts of self and self- reliance became most notable in New England in the 18th century when Puritans became interested in the acquisition of education more than anything else. The Puritans were keen on acquiring education so as to question some of the fundamental principles that governed belief in the existence of God. And it is through their quest that early literature documented the need for them to become self-reliant and to know and understand the self. At the time, life was considered a test that could either lead to condemnation or eternal success. Most written works of the time gave a lot of emphasis on the discovery of the self as a way of ensuring that people became aware of the role they had to play in ensuring that they rediscovered the true meaning of life that did not rely specifically on religion. Most scholars, writers and many works of literature paint this era as one that sought answers to many issues but above all, their efforts were anchored in hard work, ambition and the desire to succeed and hence the rediscovery of the self and the need to be self-reliant.
One such person who promoted self- reliance was Ralf Waldo Emerson. In his essay Self- Reliance, he says that being self- reliant can bring a revolution in art, religion and education. He puts a lot of emphasis on the need for the individual to take the first step in changing their situations especially when a person is uncomfortable with what goes on around them. Emerson categorically stated “nothing can bring you peace than yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” His arguments present the view that people had been dominated by outside sources, and they did not question these sources but did what they told them. They took up principles that were designed for them and may have lived by these principles not because they wanted to but because they were forced to live by them (Augustyn 39). In such a situation, no one will ever find peace. When a person’s personal space is encroached, they will lose skills that may have been somehow beneficial to them in the past because they embrace what is brought in by the outsider. He advocates for the idea of people becoming more individualistic. But then he goes on to tell his readers and the society that even if newer and better technology comes into place, society will always remain. That is why he calls for people not to rely on fortune or what the outsider brings, but the individual needs to make things work or happen for themselves. He inspired society to look at life from a different angle and empowered the American society to look beyond the colonizer and focus on how best to create an independent nation.
In Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving presents the personalities that were created after the colonists set foot in America. The natives became as confused just like the colonists were. That can be seen through Rip who woke up to the reality of realizing that he was a citizen of a new country. At one point, Rip asks whether anyone knew Rip Van Winkle. When the man in the cocked hat asked him his name and who he was, he sank into deeper confusion and could not bring himself to explaining his real identity let alone say his name. Such is the confusion that can be attributed to the rest of the natives especially in the 18th century when the colonists were claiming ownership of the Americas. America began in uncertainty and its sense of identity faltered (Gieseler 139). But at the end and as the story progresses, Rip gains confidence and becomes well aware of his personality and identity. From the very beginning, he is presented as a person who owns a dilapidated farm in his neighborhood and one who minded the business of other people more than he minded his. But at the end of the day he is a referenced storyteller who gives chronicles of the old times that people would wish to remember and, more especially the times before the war (Gieseler 145). He gets his victory and the realization of the self that leads him to self-reliance.
John Woolman is also one of the authors who in calculated the concepts of self and self-reliance on his readers especially as seen through his work with the savage Indians. He documented his life while living a life that he had chosen thus bringing out the early perceptions and benefits of self-discovery. In the book, he leads a good life in the simplest and cheapest way (Slaughter 65). He lived an authentic life and just needed the basic human needs for survival. For instance, Woolman lived in a cabin in the woods and he did not have to live in a big house but living in the woods was more important to him because that way he could have a first- hand experience with the natives and he could learn from them.. As long as he was comfortable that is all that mattered. Throughout his life and especially as seen in living in the cabin, he reduced his spending and only used a little money to buy himself the basics. His lifestyle, as documented in the book, shows that self-reliance is real, and one can get by life by just having a little of everything that is important in life Slaughter 78. His most treasured possession was his library. And it is imperative to note that he did not give a lot of importance to material things. Many people become conscious of themselves when they are allowed time on their own to reevaluate and rethink about their lives. After such an experience is when a person gets to do the things that are more important to them and not what society expects them to do. In Woolman's experiences and in relation to the American society at the time, it is evident that there was more to a person when it comes to the rediscovery of the self rather than depending on others for them to become who they are. Self-reliance is achievable when a person comes to terms with their inner spirit, aspirations, and dreams. He is known to have been among the very first authors who wrote against slavery as seen in the articles Some Considerations on the Keeping of the Negroes. He is said to have prefigured the life and sentiments of Henry David Thoreau.
Many revolutionary writers of the 18th century focused on forging their lives by reaching beyond their personalities and calling for logical and rational thinking so as to rediscover the self and also advocate for self-reliance. It goes without saying that theirs was a mission that was to change the destiny of the United States because they put more emphasis on the growth and development of moral and idealistic individuals. They undertook a mission to change what was traditionally considered evil and also to question the validity of the religious stance that had been taken by scholars who came before them. The journey started with the ability of the Puritans to question what was given to them and come up with their ideologies that they believed were right. The journey to the rediscovery of the self starts with questioning belief systems that seem misleading and setting up another set of belief system that is practical at any given time. The doctrine of self-reliance became a pillar that could see people promote themselves and subscribe to ideals that empowered the self, more than any other time in history.

Works Cited

Augustyn, Adam. American Literature from 1600 Through 1850s. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing, 2011. Print
Gieseler, Christina. Romantic Elements in Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. Bayern Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2007. Print
Slaughter, Thomas P. The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition. New York: Hill & Wang, 2008.Print

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WePapers. (2021, February, 09) Example Of The Concepts Of The Self And Self- Reliance In The 18th Century And The Revolutionary Period Essay. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-the-concepts-of-the-self-and-self-reliance-in-the-18th-century-and-the-revolutionary-period-essay/
"Example Of The Concepts Of The Self And Self- Reliance In The 18th Century And The Revolutionary Period Essay." WePapers, 09 Feb. 2021, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-the-concepts-of-the-self-and-self-reliance-in-the-18th-century-and-the-revolutionary-period-essay/. Accessed 15 June 2021.
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"Example Of The Concepts Of The Self And Self- Reliance In The 18th Century And The Revolutionary Period Essay," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 09-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-the-concepts-of-the-self-and-self-reliance-in-the-18th-century-and-the-revolutionary-period-essay/. [Accessed: 15-Jun-2021].
Example Of The Concepts Of The Self And Self- Reliance In The 18th Century And The Revolutionary Period Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-the-concepts-of-the-self-and-self-reliance-in-the-18th-century-and-the-revolutionary-period-essay/. Published Feb 09, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.
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