A paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of Emerson’s most famous essay, “Self-Reliance.” The handout begins with a listing and discussion of the two major themes of the essay and its eight minor themes. The second section is a detailed analysis of the structure of “Self-Reliance” from its first to its fiftieth and last paragraph.
The handout will allow your students to examine not only all of the most quoted passages from the essay, but also those which present less well-known and controversial doctrines of Emerson’s Transcendentalism, such as his aversion to donating to charities because, he felt, that such financial contributions encouraged the poor and disadvantaged to be less self-reliant and more society-reliant.
As an addendum to the answer key, I have included a two-page note entitled “To the Teacher,” which deals with areas not covered in the handout. The note covers topics which your students may ask about or which you may wish to incorporate into class discussion of the essay, such as Emerson’s life, background information on “Self-Reliance,” and eight characteristics of Emerson’s style of writing in his essays.
My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. As mentioned, a two-page answer key with a two-page appended note is provided on separate pages at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.