The American Scholar Summary & Analysis in English | Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fragmentation of Society

Emerson uses the text of his essay to trigger a response in the American writers, intellectuals and scholars. He begins with a criticism of the fragmentation of society in terms of occupations and mercantile classes. He considers it a roadblock to the true progress of society. He encourages them to celebrate their inner truths and put them on paper. He asks them to throw off the yoke of European intellectuals and begin an era of American creation.


They need to be original and independent in their thoughts, understanding and production of literature and knowledge. Self-reliance is the guiding principle of nature and every man needs to become self-reliant in order to unlock his true potential.

Understanding one’s own nature and mental process hold the key to developing original writers. This is linked to the inextricable relationship between one’s mind and soul. Therefore, when people read other classics, books or thesis, they should critically evaluate it rather than trying to worship it by copying it. They need to spurn the prison of the past.

Soul and Spirit

Our soul and spirit are manifestations of our link with the divine. Books can help when one is unable to connect with the spirit within. This is books have a tendency to arrest self-realization and immortalize concepts as permanent markers of reality.

They also tend to differentiate between aesthetic and the rejected, which can be troublesome for the creative process of an independent individual. However, they have a purpose as far as invoking and vitalizing response, inspiring minds and empowering thinkers.


Apart from nature and books, we are influenced by experience. Until one can act and experience heroic sacrifices and emotions, he cannot write a treatise on heroism or tenacity. Actions are important to provide credibility to the words. Emerson asserts the importance of responsibilities and duties that a scholar must adhere to. Every great mind must have a purpose greater than his own pursuit of excellence.

Trusting One’s Own Capabilities

He encourages every scholar to trust their own abilities and instincts in order to become a beacon of understanding and assurance for others. Only when simple minds can see greatness and unity with the universe within themselves, we can grow as a whole.

We can transform and progress as civilization and society only when great individuals can assert and use their originality and unfiltered instincts for the greater good. Such autonomy of the individual is crucial for collective growth.