Short Summary of “The American Scholar” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The American Scholar was a speech given by Ralph Waldo Emerson on August 31, 1837, to the “Phi Beta Kappa Society” at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was invited to speak in recognition of his work “Nature”, in which he established a new way for America’s fledgling society to regard the world.

American culture is highly influenced by the European culture Emerson by this speech tries to determine the real American culture and ask his citizen to preserve the essence of the real American culture.

According to an American Fable, the world began with a single man and that man was divided into several other men so that a work can be completed effectively. This is how a society was born, but this society was divided further. Man no longer worked effectively with each other to produced great work because of the increase in division among man.

Emerson hopes to bring back the lost efficiency among men by educating his audience about the qualification and duty of a true scholar. According to Emerson a true scholar must have great knowledge of nature, because it helps in increaseself-awareness.

Nature has a great impact on our minds. It helps individual to find new innovative ways to live life. Many times man is unable to change anything around his life because of the age old ideas and tradition. Emerson wants a true scholar to get rid of the past ideas that is degrading the life of the society.

According to Emerson, books can be harmful for the society as books are the one preserving the age old degrading ideas. These ideas are not doing any good to the human and a man is too scared to speak or go against them. He feels books can kill a man’s creative thought process but he has also mentioned a book should be considered as a tool of information not a means to determine one’s thinking. He also talked about the necessity of reading books and also the pleasure attached with reading. He asks to get rid of age old rotten ideas and become a “Man Thinking” i.e. person exploring new ideas.

He feels there is a need to change in the current education system which has resulted in students relying on notes and memorizing it. Education system needs to give important to nature that highly influence human mind, and give students the freedom to discover and explore new ideas. He wants man not to blindly follow anything, first understand the logic and emerge as a thinking man.

We should see the world clearly without the influence and tradition or history. We all human beings are same elements. We should realize this oneness and broaden our understanding of the world. It is important to mention that one should not completely ignore the past rather learn about ideas and values from the actions history and develop our society.

Therefore the task of changing world is totally depended on the future generation; they can either be a thinking man or blindly follow past rules and regulations.