Prof. Barry Charles Tharaud
18th October 2012
Emerson's essay "Fate"
Emerson's essay Fate opens The Conduct of Life (1860), followed there by a series of
related themes: "Power", "Wealth", "Culture", "Worship", "Beauty" and "Illusions," among
others. In the present essay Emerson elaborates the preliminary point that "in our first steps to
gain our wishes, we come upon immovable limitations." Emerson explains that, the period of
time we have is not complete enough to obtain our wishes, we always hope to extend time to
fulfill our plans in our life, but as Emerson believes we are not able to do so, because our time is
limited by fate. Still, "If we must accept Fate," says Emerson, "we are not less compelled to
affirm liberty, the significance of the individual, the grandeur of duty, the power of character."
"Every spirit makes its house," he says, affirming freedom and power, "but afterwards the house
confines the spirit." The essay is a powerful affirmation of human freedom, though it dwells on
all those elements of life which bring us to doubt and hesitate.
A key to Emerson's solution is to be found at the end of the poem with which he prefaced the
essay. "The foresight that waits," he says, "Is the same Genius that creates." Freedom is linked
to the human power of thought, which allows us to foresee events, and sometimes control them.
Emerson thinks that the better we think and imagine to the expected events in advance the better
results come to us. The perspective is complex ""So far as a man thinks, he is free." But no
genuine intellect ignores confining realities. He who sees through the design, presides over it,
and must will that which must be. We sit and rule and though we sleep, our dream will come to
pass. Our thought, though it was only an hour old, affirms an oldest necessity, not to be
separated from thought,...