Emile

By Jean Jacques Rousseau; Barbara Foxley | Go to book overview

BOOK II

WE have now reached the second phase of life; infancy, strictly so-called, is over; for the words infans and puer are not synonymous. The latter includes the former, which means literally "one who cannot speak;" thus Valerius speaks of puerum infantem. But I shall continue to use the word child (French enfant) according to the custom of our language till an age for which there is another term.

When children begin to talk they cry less. This progress is quite natural; one language supplants another. As soon as they can say "It hurts me," why should they cry, unless the pain is too sharp for words? If they still cry, those about them are to blame. When once Emile has said, "It hurts me," it will take a very sharp pain to make him cry.

If the child is delicate and sensitive, if by nature he begins to cry for nothing, I let him cry in vain and soon check his tears at their source. So long as he cries I will not go near him; I come at once when he leaves off crying. He will soon be quiet when he wants to call me, or rather he will utter a single cry. Children learn the meaning of signs by their effects; they have no other meaning for them. However much a child hurts himself when he is alone, he rarely cries, unless he expects to be heard.

Should he fall or bump his head, or make his nose bleed, or cut his fingers, I shall show no alarm, nor shall I make any fuss over him; I shall take no notice, at any rate at first. The harm is done; he must bear it; all my zeal could only frighten him more and make him more nervous. Indeed it is not the blow but the fear of it which distresses us when we are hurt. I shall spare him this suffering at least, for he will certainly regard the injury as he sees me regard it; if he finds that I hasten anxiously to him, if I pity him or comfort him, he will think he is badly hurt. If he finds I take no notice, he will soon recover himself, and will think the wound is healed when it ceases to hurt. This is the time for his first lesson in courage, and by bearing slight ills without fear we gradually learn to bear greater.

I shall not take pains to prevent Emile hurting himself; far from it, I should be vexed if he never hurt himself, if he grew up unacquainted with pain. To bear pain is his first and most useful lesson. It seems as if children were small and weak on purpose to teach them these valuable lessons without danger. The child has such a little way to fall he will not break his leg; if he knocks himself with a stick he will not break his arm; if he seizes a sharp knife

-41-

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Emile
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY x
  • Contents xi
  • AUTHOR'S PREFACE 1
  • Book I 5
  • Book II 41
  • Book III 128
  • Book IV 172
  • BOOK V 321
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