Can someone tell what this metaphor means:

You can die on St. Helena without being Napoleon.

It seems to be related to history, and the life of Napoleon. I found this metaphor on Quora in Paul Fryant's answer to the question What is the most beautiful metaphor you have ever come across? What does it mean?


1 Answer 1


Napoleon died in exile on St. Helena, but many people have died there without being Napoleon.

This is a metaphor for how various similarities to great figures do not mean you yourself are great. It is impossible to tell without context, but it may additionally hold the connotation that the person is claiming greatness on the basis of being metaphorically exiled to St. Helena, that is, suffering because of the actions of others.

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    It seems to be floating around the Internet as an aphorism from someone who has many aphorisms, so I don't think there is an original context. It's worth specifying that Napoleon's exile to St. Helena was the humiliating and defeated end to a hugely impactful life. So dying on St. Helena is not only a superficial similarity to Napoleon, but to Napoleon at his least great.
    – flahr
    Mar 25, 2021 at 13:37
  • Agreed. Greatness is not at play here. I would argue that this is not only not the most beautiful metaphor, but is greatly flawed. Roughly translated, 'You can die without being a pariah'. Nothing beautiful there. Quora attracts low-quality submissions. Sep 14, 2021 at 19:14

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