Thoreau vs. Emerson

Nov 16, 2017 at Literature Essays

At one time or another in the history of every nation starts a period when people rebel against government and the necessity of such resistance is depicted in the essay of  one of the most known transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. It is emphasizing a clear development of individual through relying on themselves only.

Key Points

The key point of Thoreau’s essay is highlighting the importance of being an individual. Being a student of Waldo Emerson clearly influenced some of his ideas and, therefore, there are many similarities between Emerson’s ‘Self Reliance’ and Thoreau’s ‘Resistance to Civil Government’. The both highlight the fact that individual should rely on themselves only and that conformity which is encouraged in every social group should be resisted. Emerson stated “ 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.” While Thoreau claimed “Everyone has an obligation to himself and himself, alone. Too many people in society conform to what government says is right and moral, when the true meaning of right and moral comes from what each individual holds to be right.”


To sum up it is clear that both authors shared similar views onto society and individual in particular. But whereas Emerson talked about non-conformity in general Thoreau aimed it at government.

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