THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR : An Analysis of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Oration
THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR:
Analysis of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Oration
Literature has been blessed with numerous great thinkers and academics that impart their ideals and philosophies that have influenced the development of societies. The intellectual and philosophical development of man has been considerably attributable these people who had the mettle to advocate their principles and personal ideologies. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been one of these commendable men who have built a solid foundation for modern literature to flourish. One of his most influential pieces is a speech regarding the “American Scholar.” The piece indicates that The American Scholar have a fundamental duty to society. He noted that a scholar should have self-trust; preserve the wisdom of the past; and be brave. This paper argues in favor of the claims made of Emerson. The American Scholar should be ready to take on the duties and obligations imposed upon them by society itself. This paper will provide discussions regarding this claim. Moreover, a greater analysis will also be provided with this speech made by Emerson. The main source of this discussion will be the transcript of “The American Scholar” extracted from the Web. In a similar way, past and existing literatures regarding the piece of Emerson will also be used to support the claims and arguments provided by this paper.
II. Emerson’s Scholar
At first glance, Emerson’s scholar appears to imply a particular person, someone already in existence. Nevertheless, seeing the entire piece, the claim Emerson made regarding the American scholar refers to a conceptual summation of an American individual. The piece is a challenge forwarded by Emerson to the American people of different generations. It is a call for the acceptance of the “civic responsibility to provide cultural leadership” in modern America. ( 2002)
Emerson noted the need for the scholar to mystify nature, mind the past, and be a man of action. (1837) The thinking man Emerson presents releases itself from the former notion of a man being a measly thinker, an intellectual without will. In the piece of Emerson, he gives light to the rather uncertain need for such individuals. One must recognize that the piece was given at a time when the nation was still young. Thus, it would be safe to assume that the identity of an American has yet to establish a solid foundation in immensely divided nation.
In the said work, Emerson noted that an American Scholar should mystify nature. In being acquainted in one’s nature, a scholar would be able to classify and distinguish all that is rather frenzied information in his/her midst. On the other hand, Emerson also indicated the need to be mindful of the past. He noted that devouring tomes of the past is one of the finest ways of exercising it. However, he added that it should be done properly such that the individual could still be mindful of his/her own ideals and perceptions. He further presses the claim indicating that books are mere instruments to provide information and instigate critical thinking, not a means to dictate one’s way of thinking. And lastly, Emerson noted that the scholar should be able to be a man of action. He claims that a man should be able to instill transformation with reference to the principles of past actions. These past actions are there to help establish values and ideals. It is thus the job of the scholar to recognize these and act for (using these values and ideals) the development of society in general.
This paper agrees with the views of Emerson about the American Scholar. However, as stated earlier, the piece should be placed in context. The claim provided by Emerson is a challenge to a generation of American people over a century ago. Nevertheless, the major points indicated in the piece still provide a rather universal implication on the duties of man to his/her society. A man still needs to mystify his nature, mind his past, and be a man of action. However, in the current era, the first two is given to man through the educational process. The laws of his/her environment as well as the actions of the pasts are all given within the confines of educational institutions. The hard part comes with the will to act on this information provided by education.
Along with a much stronger democratic principles instilled in current society, the claims of Emerson have been easier to realize. It is the contention of this paper though that instilling a sense of urgency at this matter should be in order. It is possibly best that the youth of America realize this notion of an American scholar at a much younger age. One must make them realize that the knowledge being fed to them in educational institutions equips them for future battles. They must realize that the task of changing the world rests on them. It is their generation that will dictate as to whether society will move to a better place or spiral down a contemptible path. Their actions and will to stand by these actions will determine the fate of the free world.
The paper has presented the views of Emerson regarding the American Scholar. In the same manner the discussions above have also argued in favor of Emerson’s concept. Nevertheless, the subsequent analysis has provided a context wherein the 17th century idea applied at this day and age. All in all, the paper contends that it is an assumed understanding that every individual has the capability of being a scholar. At this era, being a scholar does not merely entail that one could think and understand his/her environment or be well versed in history. Society demands that everyone would have the initiative to use this knowledge critically and employ its maximum potential to instigate change. Acting on ideals and philosophies tend to succumb on the emerging popular culture of indifference. It appears that Emerson failed to foresee a society where apathetic mores have clouded the priorities of the American public. It is now, more than ever, that society need Emerson’s American Scholar.
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