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Emerson's Influence

            Emerson, considered the father of the American Literary Renaissance, wrote many essays to ultimately change the societal values surrounding him. In "Self Reliance," Emerson conveys his philosophical idea that every individual has their own individual genius speaking universal truths. However this tends to be a hard to achieve with society imposing conformity, traditions, and institutions on society. "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"(19). Emerson values individuality and believed that thinking for one's self and trusting original ideas, help reach a universal truth that will ultimately benefit society as a whole. Thoreau, Whitman, Dickson, and Frederick Douglass, and Hawthorne's writings all have an "Emersonian" essence of self-reliance and individual genius by conveying themes of individuality and non-conformity.
             Similar to Emerson, Thoreau dislikes institutions and promotes non-conformity. He believes the government stands in the way of individuality because the majority, instead of the individual thinker, makes decisions. Thoreau takes Emerson's "Self Reliance" philosophy further by becoming an activist while following his conscious or individual thoughts. An example is Thoreau protesting slavery using Civil Disobedience, "If one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America"(9). Thoreau encourages disobeying unjust laws in order to change them. Eventually, he stops paying his poll tax for six years and is imprisoned. Acting as an individual by disobeying unjust laws is what will change the laws. When the individual follows its conscious, or what Emerson would call "individual genius," the universal truth would be apparent that unjust laws should not be followed.

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