Anthology Of Literature
This is a common phrase used by many people through out the world, but is it
true? Early in the history of America was the debate over self-reliance started,
however the topic was not given this name until Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about
it in the nineteenth century. Self-reliance, according to Webster's dictionary,
is the reliance on one's own efforts and abilities. Emerson and other
transcendentalists, along with Quakers and Deists believed that man should be
self-reliant, since God is within each of us. This belief, however, was not held
by the Puritans or by Edgar Allan Poe. Support for the for both sides of the
argument can been clearly seen in the writings of the Deists, Quakers, Emerson,

Poe, and the Puritans. The first group of people to settle America were the

Puritans. These Puritans had strict religious beliefs. One of these beliefs was
that ever since Adam ate the apple from the forbidden tree, man is full of sin
and any inner feelings are sinful (337). Instead of being pure and perfect, man
was seen more as being "at the best a creature frail and vain,...this
sinful creature Flinn 2 [man], frail and vain, This lump of wretchedness, of sin
and sorrow," (197; 204-205). Since the Puritans believe that man is evil
inside, it is obvious that they think anything which originates from the inner
being is also tainted with evil. Thus, man should not be self-reliant since this
would lead them to be evil. Puritans believed that instead of listening to
themselv2es they should strictly follow the bible, since it dealt with the
actions of God. Edgar Allan Poe, also did not believe in the idea of
self-reliance. Poe's short stories are generally read to give people a taste of
the first murder mystery genre. However, if one carefully studies his works it
is easy to see how Poe uses his stories as a way to voice his disagreement with
the idea of self-reliance. In Poe's stories, "The Tell-Tale Heart" and
"The Fall of the House of Usher," the main characters are loners who
do not have a lot of contact with the outside world. The actions they perform
are usually the result of them trusting themselves. Transcendentalist such as

Emerson and Thoreau believe that with the use of self-reliance man could become
closer to nature and to God himself, since God was inside each man. However, Poe
uses these characters to show the consequence of what could happen if someone
listen to just their inner feelings. Poe's characters all listen to their inner
voices and commit acts of pure evil. However, there are a few groups of people
who believe that self-reliance will have positive consequences, and not the
negative ones believed by Poe and the Puritans. A group of people who believe
that man should be Flinn 3 self-reliant are the Deists. Deists believe that
since God made everything in nature, including man, everything must be perfect.

In Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography he wrote, "from the attributes of God,
his infinite Wisdom, Goodness, and Power [one could] conclude that nothing could
possibly be wrong in the [w]orld" (797). Since the Deists believed that man
was made perfect they believed that every man was "born a tabula rasa
(blank slate)," and was not evil y nature (Handout 1). Man was not created
evil, but it was his upbringing and his surroundings that could corrupt him and
make him evil. Another belief that Deists have, which encouraged self-reliance,
was that nothing to them was right or wrong. The only actions which could be
considered bad and avoided were those actions which harmed the natural harmony
of the earth. Instead of universal right and wrongs the Deists believed that
each individual has their own "moral sense of right and wrong,
which,...makes [every man] a part of nature" (929). Franklin believed that
with the use of self-reliance man could improve himself in both spiritually and
financially. If a man could motivate himself to learn and work then he could
achieve a higher level of prosperity. The Quakers were another group of people
who believed that since God made man, man must be pure. One of the biggest
fundamentals of the Quaker faith is the belief in the inner light and
"speaking". Quakers believed that within each person was an inner
light, which was pure and holy. The inner light was believed to be "a piece
of God's spirit and energy". With the help of Flinn 4 this energy it was
believed that "individuals can form a personal, mystical relationship with

God and can use that relationship to