por Ralph Waldo Emerson
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- CommonLit Staff
The drive to conform to group norms is a powerful force in most people’s lives. This informational text about conformity helps explain why people tend to match their beliefs and behaviors to those around them.Pair “Conformity” with the “Excerpt from ‘Self-Reliance’” and ask students to compare each piece’s stance on conformity. Is it good or bad, essential or unnecessary?
Excerpt from Walden: “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”
- Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American author, essayist, poet, abolitionist, and philosopher. He, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, was one of the major figures of the Transcendentalism movement. The text below is taken from his best known work, Walden, a reflection upon his two years spent living in the wilderness near Walden Pond in Massachusetts.Pair “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” with the “Excerpt from ‘Self-Reliance’” and ask students to discuss these Transcendentalists’ views on individualism. What motivates each perspective?
- Robert Frost
In Frost’s classic poem “Mending Wall,” a speaker contemplates the necessity of the dilapidated stone wall dividing his and his neighbor’s land.Pair the excerpt from “Self Reliance” with “Mending Wall” and ask students to compare the themes of the two pieces. In an article on Frost in Harvard Magazine, Adam Kirsch writes, “Frost was a great Emersonian—in a late essay, he writes of having grown up ‘under the auspices of Emerson’—and all the while he was practicing his own quiet version of self-reliance.” How are Emerson’s ideas reflected in the message of “Mending Wall”?
The Elements of Success
- Mike Kubic
“The Elements of Success” examines three cultural traits that are said to illustrate the successfulness of different groups in America.Pair the excerpt from “Self Reliance” with “The Elements of Success” and ask students to compare the themes of the two pieces. How can one author argue that individuality and non-conformity is the key to success, when other authors cite collective cultural traits as success indicators? Are there commonalities between the two theories?
Excerpt from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
- Benjamin Franklin
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin discusses his efforts to better himself by developing different virtues.Pair “Arriving at Perfection” with “Excerpt from Self Reliance” and ask students to discuss how the two authors arrive at their own idea of an ideal life that they want to live. What do the two authors recommend one do to achieve this life?
Here We Aren't, So Quickly
- Jonathan Safran Foer
In this avant-garde short story, a man reflects on his life and his relationship with his family.Pair “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” with “Excerpt from ‘Self-Reliance’” and ask students to discuss the idea of fate in the two texts. How does the speaker from the short story’s opinion about the amount of control we have in our lives compare to Emerson’s opinion of the same topic? Why do you think they are similar or different?
Excerpt from “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street”
- Herman Melville
In this excerpt from Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street,” the narrator hires a scribe who refuses to comply with his requests.Pair “Excerpt from ‘Self Reliance’” with “Excerpt from ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street’” and ask students to discuss how Bartleby exhibits some of the characteristics that Ralph Waldo Emerson outlines in his text. In what ways is Bartleby an example of a “nonconformist”? Do students think that Bartleby’s refusal to comply with the lawyer’s requests is representative of a greater theme in the text? If so, what?
On Various Kinds of Thinking
- James Harvey Robinson
In “Various Kinds of Thinking,” James Harvey Robinson discusses different types of thinking, why humans should continue to pursue knowledge, and what deters them from doing so.Pair the excerpt from “Self Reliance” with “On Various Kinds of Thinking” and ask students to compare the two authors’ opinions on pursuing knowledge. Do they share similar values? How do their beliefs differ?