The New England Renaissance was a time where America was peeling away from its European roots in order to establish an identity of its own. The new country was proving itself to the rest of the world, not only by its differing government, but in its society as well. The nation strongly supported freedom if each and every person and this influenced society to think in new ways. While most people looked out on life from inside the box of society, transcendentalists were a small fraction of society that put their thoughts outside of the box so they could look in. This group of people separated themselves from the norm of society in order to think about daily life in a new light and go past just using their five senses to form conclusions. Some well known transcendentalists include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. During this time period, by practicing an individualistic lifestyle, transcendentalists demonstrated that Americans lacked self-sufficiency. .
While writing their essays, transcendentalists focused on the individual and their actions in society. Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson expresses this idea in his essay, Self Reliance. Throughout this piece, Emerson presents the motif of self-sufficiency. He goes on to talk about how it is not only important for an individual to be self-sufficient, but this idea must be carried over into society as well. Emerson says, "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -that is genius" (Self Reliance). He explains that a smart person is one who trusts their opinions and decisions based on the answer in their own heart. This means that an intelligent person doesn't get influenced by society to form their thoughts and is able to think on their own. Emerson says that Americans need to be able to trust themselves in order to be genius, and therefore, self-sufficient.