It has been proven time and again throughout history, the search for identity remains the essential struggle of humanity. A popular theme for writers and thinkers worldwide, individualism has been analyzed, discussed, and questioned countless times. The Encarta dictionary describes self-discovery as the process of finding a complete and individual personality, especially one that somebody recognizes as his or her own and with which there is a sense of ease. Two crucial thinkers who generated a transition into deep contemplation of the road of self-discovery, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau influenced each other as well as impacted past and present literature with their views and beliefs pertaining to individuality. .
It has been questioned how Emerson, "a mediocre college student and seemingly conventional young man turned himself into a bold, iconoclastic proponent of freedom and self-reliance." Sometime in his junior year of college, Emerson began to develop and support his own theories and ideas by becoming extremely well read. Studying works by accomplished thinkers including Hume, Montaigne, Goethe, Plato, Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Pythagoras allowed Emerson to learn about and expand on his own beliefs. Applying all the great literature he read, Emerson habitually logged his thought processes in his extensive journals as well as discovered the power of poetry. A fiery, passionate, profound and intoxicating writer, writing his thoughts, opinions, and views down became Emerson's way of thinking about varying concepts. Emerson's journals, which contain his most genuine and uninhibited writing, communicate his best work. Richardson from the article The Red-Hot Transcendentalist writes, "Emerson steps forth as a complicated, energetic, and emotionally intense man who habitually spoke against the status quo and in favor of whatever was wild and free." Believing in the power of individualism, Emerson made sure to consciously and deliberately allow other's ideas affect his own, rather than practice ignorance and claim total originality.