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From William Hazlitt's letter to his son:

Remember always that you are but one among others, and you can hardly mistake your place in society. In your father's house, you might do as you pleased: in the world, you will find competitors at every turn. You are not born a king's son to destroy or dictate to millions: you can only expect to share their fate, or settle our differences amicably with them. You already find it so at school; and I wish you to be reconciled to your situation as soon and with as little pain as you can.

Here, when he says that the world is full of competition, does he advise his son against valuing himself more than others because in the world, there are other people too and they too crave for the same things as he does (thus, the competition)? He can't think of him as special but can only think of himself as similar to others and reconcile with others as he can't live without the acceptance of society.

What are the possible meanings in the passage? Can anyone explain this to me? Especially the competition part.

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This can be interpreted as a sincere piece of advise for his son.

"Remember always that you are but one among others, and you can hardly mistake your place in society."

  • Hazlitt advises his son to always keep in mind that he is no one special. He is among the people in society and should neither be conceited nor belittle himself, should neither be arrogant nor contemptuous, suggesting that no matter where his son go, he should remain humble and never wield power to oppress others.

"In your father's house, you might do as you pleased: in the world, you will find competitors at every turn."

  • This contrast shows the difference between society and home. "At every turn" means at every stage in life. The son can do anything at home, yet he should watch his behavior, strive for the better, and improve himself to be capable enough to survive in the competitions.

"You are not born a king's son to destroy or dictate to millions: you can only expect to share their fate, or settle our differences amicably with them. You already find it so at school; and I wish you to be reconciled to your situation as soon and with as little pain as you can."

  • the father points out that even though there are fierce competitions, his son should not try to win by "destroying" or "dictating" others. Instead, he should have sympathy as indicated by "settle differences" and "share fate", and see "competitors" as people just like him "in society", instead of seeing them as enemies to be defeated.

When this is not possible, Hazlitt advises that his son should "reconcile yourself to a situation", meaning to accept the situation even if it is unpleasant or painful. In this way, he wishes his son to not linger on things that cannot be change, otherwise it will bring more "pain".

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  • That was a wonderful step by step answer. Thank you very much.+1. Thanks for making the last point clear. Nov 22 at 11:40

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