Over time the American dream has proved a resilient and unique concept that Americans have come to understand and define in different ways as relevant to their own life narratives and experiences. Not defined or rooted in lineage, religion, or some form of a shared history the American dream, unlike any other form of national identity in the world, is shaped and defined by collective values.
These values and principles rooted in individualism, self-actualization, and self-reliance where people are able to fulfill their own destiny, be self-reliant, and believe in the promise that through hard work and perseverance life can be different and better. The apparent timeless notions of these values in relationship to pursuing and defining what we now understand as the American dream are deeply embedded in the fabric of the cultural landscape of America because they inform and preserve the mythology of the American experience. The American dream is a myth that endures and lasts because it promotes an aspirational experience that both lies and finds fulfillment in one’s life or in the
Based on the above discussion, the American dream and its close association with the American literature, the goal of this paper is to explore and examine how RALPH WALDO EMERSON defining, constructing, and sustaining the basic principles of the American dream. The paper will specifically focus on key texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that capture different aspects and perspectives of the American culture and the American dream (Ronald &Joel 109). By weaving and tracing the values of individualism, self-reliance, and personal freedom that constitute the American dream through his...
works and I will examine why his piece remain relevant in the modern American culture.
Through the examination and analysis of The Autobiography of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, The Great Gatsby the project will demonstrate how from one generation to another, from one literary period to another, these works are sacred texts because like the American dream they are rooted in the themes of self-actualization and individualism, and because they provide examples of all the possibilities the American dream offers when given the opportunity to pursue it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson has contributed to America’s literature in many ways. First, Ralph Waldo Emerson contributed to American by influencing other writers; calling for a national literature; imbuing his writings with the ideal of spiritual harmony as opposed to the dominance of material gain. Emerson look to Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe as the inspiration for literary thought of his day in the same way that American writers looked to Emerson for theirs.
In this sense, Emerson brought the philosophy and thoughts of Germany’s greatest poet into American literature (Ronald 109). Some of the American greats who were influenced by Emerson are Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Emerson called for a New World Renaissance in literature to replace the past European Renaissance. He wanted a national literature to rise up that reflected the environs of America as well as the social and cultural concerns of America–advocating that a new voice be brought from the heart of the American experience to the collective of literary experience.
Emerson brought a note
of spirituality to the new national literature because his emphasis was on harmony deriving from within, a harmony within one’s self. In his writings, that harmony is reflected in his poetry celebrating Nature’s wild life that surrounded him. His ideas were opposed to the notion that the ideal was the freedom to make money. His spiritual ideas feed the fuel of later eras with the idea that inner harmony is superior to the drive for wealth.
Emerson’s praise of the individual spirit in “Self-Reliance” demonstrates the promise and optimism of the American dream by illustrating that the path toward self-reliance comes from self-trust and not from conforming to traditions and societal customs. In the essay he states: Emerson’s literary works and his transcendental philosophy of self-reliance and self-trust as a symbolic projection of the American dream in American literature. With an idealized conception of an independent American identity and the rejection of European “gentility,” Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” demonstrates the influence American literature had in defining the American identity and shaping the American dream.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, poet and lecturer who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. Ralph Waldo Emerson was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society. He was a prolific essayist and speaker. He gave over 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston in 1803, the son of a Unitarian Minister.
His father died when he was young (8 years old) and he had to support his education through doing part time jobs. In October 1817, he went to Harvard, where he served as class poet, but he didn’t stand out as a student graduating in the middle of his class. After graduation, he went to Florida, seeking warmer climates for his delicate health.
Emerson worked as a school master and later as a pastor in Boston’s Second Church. However he gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. Following this ground-breaking work, he gave a speech entitled The American Scholar in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America’s “Intellectual Declaration of Independence”.
When he was just 18, Emerson married Ellen Louisa Tucker, but she tragically died just two years later – an event which shook the young Emerson. Around this time, he became more uncertain over the religious beliefs of the church he worked as a pastor ( Stephen 88). He was unsatisfied with the Communion and the method of worship. To Emerson it seemed too dry. Several years later in 1838, he was invited to Harvard Divinity School, where he gave a famous address claiming early Christianity and ‘deifed’ Christ and discounting the miracles in the Bible.
This radical approach was heavily criticized by members of the establishment.
Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first, and then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 – represent the core of his thinking, and include
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