Individualism in Romantic Literature Essay

February 19, 2021 by Essay Writer


Individualism has been the center of debates among researchers and literature analysts. The world is mainly divided into individualists and collectivists.

Some of the countries that promote collectivistic cultures include Korea, Taiwan and Egypt, among others. On the other hand, those that promote individualistic cultures include most western cultures such as Italy, France and England, among others. The latter groups of countries (western) usually attribute individualism to reasoning. They claim that it is an individual that reasons. However, the other groups that promote collectivism credit it with collective responsibility.

Individualism refers to one’s emphasis on self or individual person. It is quite important to note that a group of people can rarely reason as required. In fact, this is what has encouraged individualism in western cultures. This paper will explore Ralph Waldo’s essay on self reliance. It will also endeavor to establish the characteristics of individualism in the essays as well as its significance (Western Culture Global 1).

Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo

Waldo’s essay on Self reliance was written in the early 1830s and published first in 1841. The main theme in self reliance was on “trust thyself” as he tried to encourage people to believe in themselves without fear of societal disapproval. He starts his essay with emphasis on defining “Genius”. He claims that intelligent people usually realize how envy is ignorance and professes self trust. He goes on to say that to heed to Gods call is to put one’s thought into use, since God has made each and everyone unique.

He discusses societal disapproval as well as foolish consistency as the main obstacles to self reliance and trust in one’s self. He believes that society’s emphasis on conformity destroys people’s ability to be innovative and genius. The other factor he emphasizes is self-worth, in which he encourages individuals’ responsibility and right to think for themselves (Buell 64).

Characteristics of Individualism

There are several characteristics of individualists as conveyed by Waldo in his essay “self reliance”. These include the “I” identity, which according to him helps one to believe in his unique gifts from God. He also encourages people to think for themselves and trust in their deeds without considering societal disapproval.

In this regards, he tries to define genius as a characteristic of individualism and believing in one’s thoughts. Waldo goes on to encourage self-worth as it gives people the confidence, responsibility and right to think for themselves without regard to societal disapprovals and conformity, among others. Other characteristics emphasized by Waldo include shunning societal disapprovals as well as foolish consistency (Western Culture Global 1).

Significance of individualism

Individualism as portrayed by Waldo in his essay on self reliance seeks to make geniuses and individualists who can think for themselves without involving influence from the society. Societies seek to ensure people conform to similar values and actions. In addition they emphasize the need to be consistent with these values. This is foolish consistency, according to Waldo, and he therefore encourages individuals to trust in themselves as they are uniquely created (, Inc. 1)


Ralph Waldo’s essay on self reliance was written as early as 1930s but was first published in 1941. He encourages people to think for themselves and trust in their deeds without considering societal disapproval or other obstacles such as foolish consistency which the society emphasizes.

The author advocates for self reliance as an initial stage of development and not the goal. He also states that self reliance is not anti-community. In essence, he encourages individuals to believe in their potentials and put efforts to achieve them without distractions (Richardson 99).

Works Cited

Buell, Lawrence. “Emerson”. Cambridge. Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2003: 64, Inc. “Self-Reliance Study Guide”.

Richardson, Robert. “Emerson: The Mind on Fire”. Berkeley. California: University of California Press.1995: 99.

Western Culture Global. “Individualism”. Western Culture Knowledge Center.26.01.2010.14.07.2011.

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