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self reliance

Explain Emerson's quote, "For nonconformity the world...a sour face," and say if the world still punishes nonconformity.


Emerson is trying to point out the challenges with remaining as a non- conformist.  At the time in which he is writing, America began to embrace a model of industrialization and the notion of generating material wealth became a driving force in society.  This helped to create a conformist view of the world, where individuals sought the same ends in the same settings through the same goals.  Individuals who spoke out against this were seen as "wrong" or "defective" or "abnormal."  They were seen as "different," in a bad way.  The reality is that there is a price to be paid for non- conformity because it forces individuals to take a stand against what is being established and understood as "the singular notion of the good."  Emerson is pointing out how much of a challenge this is and while he is not in favor of it, he is trying to suggest that this is what reality is and individuals should understand this in order to change it.  To some extent, this is how things are today.  While we are doing better with accepting the idea of difference, there are some social settings where conformity is an absolute.  In these domains, Emerson's words of both condition and change ring true.

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