Literary Essay Sample: The Concepts of the Self and Self-reliance in Developing American Literature

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Wesleyan University
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The concept of self-reliance can be described as trust or dependence one has to own judgment, capabilities, independence, and resources. This concept helps a person to manage his/ her affairs independently without relying on others capabilities as well as their strength. It also eliminates the need of external forces in their functions and general of well-being. This term of self-reliance in literature displays a high rate of independence that an individual possesses.

However, over the time American literature has demonstrated a strong and exceptional concept that has lead Americans' values and principles to be understood and also define them in various ways that are relevant to them. These principles and values are rooted back from self-reliance, individualism, and self-actualization that help people to fulfill their density independently (Walter 59). This was expressed during the eighteenth century as well as the revolutionary period by various scholars of literature.

The development of American literature.

In the 18th century, literature shifted its focus from the Puritanical principles to the power of the rational and human thought. That is, the beliefs of natural occurrences were possibly the messages from God were no longer acceptable to the new centered world. Therefore, the majority of scholars believed that human mind could comprehend the universe through the use of literature in various disciplines (Gray 60). The massive scientific, social, economic and philosophical changes of the eighteenth century impacted the way for democratic principles on literature. There was also a great diversity of opinion in political life and religion due to increase population; thus, this influence literature into another dimension.

The emergence and evolution of American literature began in the mid-nineteenth century due to the quality and number of literature works. It was considered as American Renaissance (Emory, 164). This period of "American Renaissance" was associated with American transcendentalism and romanticism respectively. During this period of Romanticism movement was famous in American arts, politics and also philosophy. It was also advocating for a radical change of Americans' spirit as well as that of strict religions of the early period.

On the other hand transcendentalist, ideas were able to spread through American culture and their minds. They started expressing their ideas through printing culture which includes new stories, essays, articles, and poems. There was a wide production of journals and magazines. During this period of revolution political writings, songs, stories, and poems were popular to the Americans citizens.

The role and contribution of Benjamin Franklin on 18th century

Franklin work was significant and contributed greatly to the development of literature in America. He was able to deliver the "Age of Reason" to the ordinary people of America. Thus, he was able to write and share his thoughts with every citizen (Carl, 159). He also published a newsletter known as "Poor Richard Almanack" that was understandable and affordable to ordinary people. Likewise, he was able to share his wisdom to all people in America.

Franklin used the first-person method to write his books and newsletter, and this allows readers to relate to him closely and friendly manner. These experiences were more interesting and relevant to housewives, politicians, farmers among others because they could easily understand on their own. Franklin was self-educated, practiced writing and able to read widely that enabled him to break tradition especially puritan traditions. Franklin was able to utilize prose style effectively in his writing that helps him to advance his ideas. Franklin was not limited to literature only; he was a prominent figure that drafted US constitution in 1787. Thus, Franklin never lost his democratic sensibility

The roles and contributions of other specific figures on revolutionary period

Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were two of America's great poets in the 19th century who would barely have been different in style and temperament. Walt Whitman was a traveler working man, poetic innovator and a self-appointed nurse throughout the Civil War in America. His greatest masterpiece was Leaves of Grass, whereby he uses free-flowing lines and verses of different length to illustrate the all-inclusiveness democracy of America. To take the idea further, he equates the huge variety of the American experience with himself by not being self-centered. For instance, in the poem Leaves of Grass, he says that the content is the thoughts of all men in all lands and ages and not original with him.

Mark Twain who lived between 1835 to 1910 was the first America writer who was born away from the East Coast-in Missouri; border state. His greatest regional masterpiece was the bibliography Life on the Mississippi and the novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. His style inclined by journalism, devoted to the vernacular, direct and bare but also highly irreverently and evocative humorous- influenced how many Americans write their language. Twain characters express like actual people and sound characteristically American, using regional accents, newly invented words, and local dialects.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a great American journalist, novelist, and short story writer. On 20th century fiction, his understated and economical style had a powerful influence, while his public image and life of adventure had an influence on the generations later. He produced most of his work between 1920s and 1950s, and in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He published five non-fiction works, ten short stories, and ten novels. Most of his work is considered masterworks of literature in America.


The evolving and multifaceted perception of the American literature has been studied and researched for many years. The central concepts one can think of as the apparently unending American literature have been there since the establishment of America. The beliefs in self-reliance and self which one comprehends to have a potential to accomplish American literature intertwined into the fabric of the culture of America from the beginning to the end.


Work cited

Carl. A. Stephen. Benjamin Franklin Autobiography, The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin. New York: Cambridge UP, 2008.159-70

Charles. R. and William. F. Mark Twain Biography 1835- 1910. University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 100-150

Desnoyers and Megan. F. Ernest Hemingway: A Storyteller Legacy J.F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, 2011.

Gray Richard. A History of American Literature. Backwell, 2004. 79- 89.

Paul and Emory E. A Companion to American Literature and Culture. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010.164 -178.

Walter. B. James R. and Morris. D. American Literature, 2017. New York: Cambridge UP, 2008.59-70.


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