In continuing with the Romanticism idea of independence from society, Emerson wrote this particular work. He addresses religion, society, and history as he implores his readers to think for themselves and be courageous.
My favorite quote from this work is at the end of page four when he writes, "but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." What great insight! Emerson here is making the point that true independence requires courage and a certain amount of virtue. Not everyone can break away from the crowd and still be a functional part of society. Emerson also tells his readers that nonconformity will come at a price when he writes, "For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure." (page five) I think this is a pretty fair warning to give his readers. Oftentimes, people think that it is easy to follow their heart but here Emerson is saying that change is inevitable.
One question I had in particular was on page six when Emerson is discussing God and religion. Is he saying that one cannot truly know and follow God if they also claim to be self-dependent? Another characteristic of this writing that I found particularly interesting was at the bottom of page eight when Emerson is discussing the beauty of nature. This is so different from the earlier American writings we read because they either didn't discuss nature or when they did painted it in a very poor light. Emerson however, speaks of its "...poise and orbit..." (page eight) and suggests that humans should be more like nature when it comes to self-reliance.
The mob mentality that we saw in our last Hawthorne reading reintroduces itself around line 260 on page nine. Emerson here implores his readers to go alone and find their own genius. I think that it is important here to note that even though this is an old writing, many of the same ideas apply to today's America. We may pretend to not care what other people think but honestly no one wants to be the outcast of society. It truly does take courage to stand up to society and break the mold so to speak.