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Self reliance

I will, in the following, discuss the theme of self-reliance in the above-mentioned texts. But what exactly is self-reliance? In his 1841 publication called Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson includes an essay simply entitled Self-Reliance in which he states “Trust thyself…Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age…” . Self-reliance is thus defined as the ability to be your own master and to seek your own fortune free from influences from your surroundings. Hawthorne wrote Young Goodman Brown in 1835, some 6 years before Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Still it is obvious from the text that the notion of self-reliance was, if not named, very much alive. In the text we encounter Goodman Brown – a pious puritan settler - as he embarks on a strange and perilous journey into the woods surrounding the settlement. Hawthorne, being a harsh critic of the puritan society from which he himself derived, uses the story as an allegory, a metaphor, for the necessity of facing your internal demons and doing it alone. The Puritans believed that the wilderness was the home of the devil and his minions (Indians, wild beasts and the like) and as such was a place to be shunned. Still, Goodman Brown leaves behind his devoted and maiden-like wife (appropriately named Faith) and walks off. In the woods he encounters a man with features remarkably like his own (it is himself, his demon within) that guides him to a place of evil worship. Goodman Brown has visions of unthinkable evil that leaves him paranoid and unable to feel happiness for the remainder of his life. Because he has succumbed to fear of failure, he fails. But why does he fail that way? Simple. Goodman Brown fails to trust in himself. Instead he leaves his mental well being in the hands of the community from which he comes. To the Puritans the individual mind was fragile and prone to heresy if tempted. Only united did they s...

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