Self-Reliance Questions and Answers
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-Reliance book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does Emerson feel about envy and imitation in "Self-Reliance"?

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,214 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

As others have pointed out, Emerson famously writes that each of us eventually comes to understand the idea that "envy is ignorance" and that "imitation is suicide." When one person envies another, the envious person wishes that she has something or embodies some quality that the other possesses. Therefore, when a person feels this way, she has not reached a full or proper understanding of her own talents and abilities: she is ignorant of what makes her as valuable or capable, though perhaps in a different way, in comparison to the person she envies. Once she recognizes her own abilities, she will stop envying others theirs. Envy blinds us to ourselves and prevents greater understanding of ourselves, making us ignorant.

Further, when a person imitates another person, he—figuratively—kills himself. In acting like someone else, he closes down himself, ignoring his own abilities and talents and goals. He is no longer really living by and for himself, and so, in a way, he might as well be...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 555 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,200 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

price7781 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write668 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial