Romanticism and Realism
Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a piece that encourages individuals to be nonconformists. Emerson believes that individuals must not conform to what's expected but to step out of the crowd and follow their own judgment. As the title suggests, Emerson stresses that humans must rely on themselves. This piece shows the true meaning of Transcendentalism, which is a literary movement that is an offshoot of Romanticism. It stresses individuality, intuition and self-reliance. Very similar to this piece is the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, which is called My Bondage, My Freedom. In it, Douglass portrays the breadth of slavery's ability to dehumanize through his insights into the mentality of slave owners. Douglass's autobiography is a true portrayal of Realism. It shows how he struggled through slavery to become the most prominent African-American of his day. Despite differences in diction, Self-Reliance and My Bondage, My Freedom are, at their core, very similar. They both encourage humans to believe in themselves, take matters into their own hands and they both stress that humans are divine in their own right.
First of all, Self-Reliance and My Bondage, My Freedom both encourage individuals to believe in themselves. For example, Emerson quotes that, "The power in which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried." By this, Emerson means to say that humans can do whatever they put their minds to and that no one knows their own potential until they try. No one can get anywhere in life if they don't trust their own instincts and follow their dreams. Emerson brings home the idea that human potential is so great that no one can imagine, but that no one can find this out until they search for it. This is very similar to the ideas that Frederick Douglass illustrates in the autobiography. If Douglass never persevered and worked hard learn how to read, Douglass might never have become a free man and helped inculcate the need for abolition into the hearts of so many slaves. Douglass quotes, "The first, and never to be retraced, step had been taken. In teaching me the alphabet, in the days of her simplicity and kindness, my mistress had given me the "inch," and now, no ordinary precaution could prevent me from taking the "ell." " Douglass means to say that in teaching Douglass how to read, Douglass's mistress has made Douglass one step closer to freedom, and nothing could stop Douglass from reaching that goal. Through this inspirational quote, Douglass demonstrates that if individuals believes in themselves, they can essentially accomplish anything they try.
In addition, Self-Reliance and My Bondage, My Freedom both encourage humans to take matters into their own hands. Individuals shouldn't depend on others. Emerson believes that people are more happy when they've done something with their own hands. Naturally, the result of believing in oneself is doing that thing they believe in. They should just take matters into their own hands if they want something done. This exactly the meaning of self-reliance. It means that people should rely on themselves. Emerson states, "no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till." Transcendentalism urges people to rely on themselves so they can understand hard work and appreciate the fruits of their labor. In similar terms, Realist pieces illustrate how people actually lived and died. They show how people worked and toiled in slavery and how harsh life was for people during that time. But, Douglass's autobiography actually shows how he took education seriously and taught himself how to read so he could prove he wasn't ignorant. Even though he had no help, he just kept his goal in mind and resolved to reach it. He says, "Seized with a determination to learn to read, at any cost, I hit upon many expedients to accomplish the desired end."
Lastly, Self-Reliance and My Bondage, My Freedom both demonstrate that humans are divine in their own right. Emerson believes that humans should have self-worth and think of themselves as good. From Self-Reliance, he quotes, "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." In essence, Emerson says that humans must respect themselves and not degrade themselves by following the will of others. Another quote of his stresses the idea that every human being has unique talents and is special in their own way and should show that to the world. Another quote of his explains that, "Whosoever would be a man must be a nonconformist." Emerson believes that humans must not conform to the rules of society and should follow their own path. This quote shows that Emerson believes deeply in individuality. On the same token, Douglass portrays that slaves are human beings, not property, and should be treated as such. Slaves should be given an education because they deserve it. For example, Douglass quotes, "It was no easy matter to induce her to think and to feel that the curly-headed boy, who stood by her side...sustained to her only the relation of a chattel. I was more than that, and she felt me to be more than that...I was human, and she, dear lady, knew and felt me to be so." Douglass truly believes that blacks were no less perceptive, intelligent, and capable than whites, but slavery prevents kind whites from showing this. Through his speeches as a free man, Douglass showed that blacks are exactly the same as whites and that all humans have potential.
On the flip side, the diction of these two pieces shows how each is specific to Romanticism or Realism. The diction in My Bondage, My Freedom is straightforward and clear. The language is at a level where most people can read and understand it without much difficulty. On the other hand, the diction in Self-Reliance has a more elevated tone, and, truthfully, only educated people can read it, even though it geared toward everyone. Realist pieces attempt to serve the subject matter with truth and accuracy so they can show how people actually lived and died. Douglass's autobiography shows how he grew from a slave to an esteemed orator for abolition very factually. Romantic pieces tend to glorify the human spirit and values intuition. Emerson piece Self-Reliance tells humans to work toward self-reliance and encourages people to rely on their inner voice. Realism isn't as idealistic as Romanticism. It's more down to earth and factual.
In conclusion, Self-Reliance and My Bondage, My Freedom have many similarities despite differences in diction. They both encourage people to believe in themselves, take matters into their own hands, and both stress that humans are divine in their own right. By believing in oneself, one can accomplish anything they set their mind to. Relying on oneself can help people learn to work hard and appreciate the fruits of their labor and in turn, grow as human beings. Both pieces stressed that humans are divine in their own right. Humans are unique and must not conform to the beliefs of those around them. They must believe in themselves and learn to harness their individuality to better themselves. Even though these pieces are different in their themes and diction, they still instill the idea that every human is special and should express themselves, no matter what other people say.


Can someone just proofread it for grammar mistakes? I need a little help