There were numerous non-conformists in the 19th century because the social norms were absurd at times. For instance, Ralph Waldo Emerson raised the question of non-conformity in his famous essay Self-Reliance. The author claimed that in order to be an authentic self, it is vital to follow one’s desires and needs2. To my mind, his view about accepting one’s individuality does slightly contradicts the role of the individual in the society of the 19th century because it was a period of momentous changes. Only staying true to oneself and denying conformity meant non-adjustment to new changes and new social orders. However, Emerson was mainly concerned with the younger generation, who are prone to liberal thinking. What is more, I found his statements about promoting one’s identity contradictory since one may be constantly in search of oneself and never see a concrete self. Therefore, in my opinion, his arguments are a bit contradictory.
The other prominent work, Resistance to Civil Government, was published by H.D. Thoreau, who aimed to raise awareness about the government’s role and point at the war’s disadvantages. He also criticized American social institutions and slavery-related policies. The higher the law is, the higher people’s obedience should be1. The essay emphasizes that people should manage their lives at will and not allow governments and institutions to manage them. I think it somehow contradicts the role of a human of the 1800s because the law was essential for them to and those who neglected it were banned from society. On the other hand, the social institutions should only give guidelines and never rule others’ lives because the human has their own intentions and accords.
““Resistance to Civil Government” by H.D. Thoreau.” The Picket Line. Web.
“Self-Reliance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson. Web.
- ““Resistance to Civil Government” by H.D. Thoreau.” The Picket Line, Web.
- “Self-Reliance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Web.