The American Scholar Essay, Research Paper
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American Scholar is one whose individual character is split. The Emersonian character is made up of many different parts, therefore influenced by several aspects of everyday life. As Emerson states, ?Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his? (294). One can easily relate one?s own life to each of these characteristics as it is evident what Emerson is stating. As man is both one of each person, he is all of them combined.
As Emerson describes the influences on man as parceled persons of society, it seems as if he is describing professions. However, it is clear that Emerson is using the professions of the priest, scholar, statesman, producer and soldier as metaphors for the characteristics of the individual. Each of these professions are influenced by what Emerson describes as educational inspiration by nature, books and action. As a priest, the individual is learning though books and action. One who preaches and believes in what is learned will ultimately receive the most beneficial and experiential education.
The scholar is the common collegiate individual who envelops one?s self in study. Although the influences of action and nature may play a part in the life of the scholar, nevertheless, it is books that influence this aspect of one?s educational life. However, as Emerson explains, ?Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books? (297). Here, one can see that Emerson is saying that one must not simply take in the ideas which books present, but rather to inspire one?s own thoughts and principles.
The statesman provides an example of a highly regarded leader, political or not, who is devoted to public service. The action influence of one?s personal education is evident here, for it is in the actions that the statesman provides such public service. These actions do not only provide a positive influence on the experiential education of other scholars, but also contribute to the intellect of the speaker. The actions of the statesman provide a display of the effects of a scholar who is both learning and teaching at the same time.
The term producer can be interpreted in several different ways. A producer is one who supplies a given group with a certain good or service. Perhaps one can view the Emerson ?producer? as the successful American scholar. As the individual is a gainer of knowledge on the whole, the production is the scholar later in life as the teacher. Emerson explains how it is not only the pupil who learns from the teacher, but the same process works in reverse order. Every moment the teacher is instructing, the teacher is learning from the student. In society, people learn from one another every day.
A scholar from any field must be dedicated and have honor toward themselves in order to achieve scholarship in education. Emerson describes the soldier in society as part of every individual. The soldier takes all of the aspects that Emerson describes. The soldier learns from books, then acts upon what he or she learns and performs that action, in the field, or as Emerson describes, nature. The soldier proves to be the optimal example of Emerson?s ?American Scholar.? The soldier has honor, devotion, and discipline; all characteristics that can be extremely beneficial to the scholar. The student can learn from the solder by applying what is learned in the classroom to the world outside.
As each of these characteristics are a part of the individual, each person has their respective place in society. With out such placement, the scholar would never achieve full intellect or scholarship. One can relate Emerson?s ?The American Scholar,? to the 1994 film ?With Honors.? Brendan Fraser plays the main character, Monty, who learns to develop his education into the Emersonian ideal. The three aspects of learning can be directly related to this film for the display of learning through nature, books and action prove to be a part of the plot and theme of this film.
Through the character of Simon Wilder, one can see how an individual learns through action, books and nature. Simon taught Monty many things. First, in terms of action, Simon learned that people do not see the homeless as human beings. Through their actions of shuffling by on their own time, they ignore the people at their feet, careless for the poverty around them. Simon was not an uneducated man. He was, in fact, a smart person who learned in many ways. It seemed odd to the Harvard students that a man of such ?financial challenge,? would be reading such literature as Walt Whitman?s ?Leaves of Grass.? It is at this point that one can relate Emerson?s standpoint of learning from books to the character of Simon.
Simon is the epitomized figure of Emerson?s educational society. He is one and all of a priest, scholar, statesman, producer and soldier. As priest, Simon is teaching Monty about the real world, outside the secure world of academics he is used to. As scholar, we see Simon reading Whitman?s Leaves of Grass throughout the film which proves he is not only street smart, but an intellectual as well. As statesman, one sees Simon lecturing at Harvard. Although he is not really providing public service, he is displaying the traits of the Emersonian statesman. To Monty, Simon is the ultimate producer. He supplies Monty with knowledge of the real world that people live in, thus changing Monty?s thesis and ultimately, his life. Simon lives his life in nature, or ?in the field,? and is therefore an example of the Emersonian soldier. He has survived through thick and thin and has remained devoted to himself as a survivor.
Although Simon represents Emerson?s explanation of the contributing individuals of society, nevertheless, in Simon?s world, the work is not divided equally. There is always some remainder of useless help to the world of academia and society on a whole. In this film, one can see that the society on a whole has been cut out, for the emphasis is on the world of the main character Monty. Harvard is the center of intellectual collegiate study in the United States. Simply living in such an environment educated Simon and Monty. The submersion in the world of academia does more than to simply motivate an individual to be successful. It also inspires a person to discover their own principles and beliefs based on the facts which are taught.
As one looks at this film from a the surface, it is clear that Monty is portrayed as the ?scholar.? However, as one looks into the film, it is both Monty and Simon who take on the characteristics of Emerson?s ?The American Scholar.? Monty was what one might call book smart. He knew what he had to do to impress his professor and graduate with honors. It was Simon, and his common sense and street smarts which taught Monty a great deal. In Emersonian terms, it was the actions of Simon which changed Monty?s self-education.
At first, one can see that Monty is receiving a somewhat well rounded, highly intellectual ?Harvard? education. However, it is after he meets Simon that his character and education become more open minded. Here, one can relate the character transition to Emerson?s active learning. Monty did not learn to be a better person and write a better thesis through a book, he learned it through the actions and words of Simon. In terms of Nature, the film merely provided a setting for the characters to grow in. As Emerson read ?The American Scholar,? at Harvard, it is very interesting that this film was set there. Perhaps it is to give the audience somewhat of a sense of scholarship, or to present that scholarship in a false way to allow the characters change.
In a film it is easy to relate such aesthetics as lighting, camera movement, blocking etc., to the overall theme of the film. However, when looking at Emerson and relating it to With Honors, it is unnecessary to include such aspects for the deeper content holds the underlying theme of Emerson?s American scholar.