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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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Jean Jacques Rousseau (zhahn zhahk rew-SOH), the author, who assumes the role of a tutor in this work, which is less a novel than a treatise on education. With the imaginary Émile as a pupil, he illustrates his theories of education as he tries them out on his student. The tutor prescribes for the child’s surroundings, diet, and hygiene and gives him the freedom to learn the natural limits of his powers. For the adolescent Émile, he provides an education of the intellect, and for his maturing pupil, a moral education and the study of human relationships. The tutor, all through the life of the pupil, follows a philosophy of learning designed primarily to create neither a noble savage nor a cultivated gentlemen but rather a man living freely and fearlessly according to his nature.


Émile (ay-MEEL), an imaginary French orphan who is used as a child-symbol in the illustrations of Rousseau’s theories of education. Fulfilling Rousseau’s requirements for an ideal subject for experimentation, he grows to manhood under his teacher’s guidance. As a prospective father, he announces his determination to educate his child according to the theories of his beloved tutor.


Sophie (soh-FEE), a woman-symbol used by Rousseau to enable him to discuss marriage problems with his pupil Émile.

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