After reading Self-Reliance, I believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson is contradicting himself when he says that you should listen to what is emerging from within you rather than listen to what other people say but at the same time wants his reader to listen to him. Emerson promotes conformity, saying that "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist" (82). On the contrary, he writes to "let us never bow and apologize more" (85). He is contradicting himself in that he is telling others to be nonconformist but also telling others to conform to nonconforming ways. In fact, not only does he contradict himself there, he is constantly contradicting himself throughout the entire essay. Emerson even rhetorically asks in the essay "why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public palce? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?" (84). Emerson is all about nonconformity; nonconformity to both societal standards and patterns. He says that it is okay to not have a pattern or behave inconsistently. Everybody likes consistency, but if you're just not a consistent person, then why limit yourself? Why not just be your true self? Your ideas are still yours and they can also change! I think that you should listen to Emerson with a grain of salt; take what you like and leave what you don't. Don't imitate, but do innovate! Apply Emerson's words to you in a way that makes you most comfortable. This essay is all about him, but it is all for you! Let Emerson's individuality inspire you to become your own individual! So what if you contradict yourself by conforming to the nonconformist? LISTEN to what is emerging from within you. If your heart says to listen to Emerson, then so be it! So what if Emerson is contradicting himself? Let him do what he wants, because even if you don't, he will still do whatever he pleases. I got a little derailed from the topic, but Emerson is definitely contradicting himself, and it is definitely okay! At the same time, do you really even KNOW if Emerson WANTS you to listen to him. Obviously he published it and all but maybe during his writing process this piece wasn't even written to a specific audience rather just him recording his spontaneous overflow of emotions and feelings, which is probably why the essay can appear contradictory at times. Don't we all contradict ourselves from time to time, or all the time? Because I surely do!
PS Emerson says "to be great is to be misunderstood"(85). His contradictions may cause him to be misunderstood, but isn't that what he wanted all along?