English Essay on “Imitation: How to make it useful” for School, College Students, Long and Short English for Class 8, 9, 10, 12

Imitation: How to make it useful

Man, it is said, is an imitative being. Look at a child, and see how its whole life is made up of imitation of the actions of its elders,

As if its whole vocation

Were endless imitation

Even older people are more or less like children in this respect. Think of the way in which fashion in dress spreads through society, and judge for yourself, whether it is not the most refined and cultured people that are the most childish in this sense, strange and paradoxical as this may appear, and highly offensive to those concerned. But there is really no offence in it : it is one of the primal instincts of man to act as others do; the tendency is inborn, and can be repressed or turned in another direction only with some amount of conscious effort.

It is on account of this instinct that the influence of example is so powerful. Good example and bad example are both powerful in an equal degree in influencing the conduct of others. The example is first followed, and the question whether it is a good one or a bad one is considered afterwards, and in many cases it is not considered at all. Example is a guide which people are inclined to follow more or less blindly. This being so, it is very necessary that the examples set before us should be nothing but good and wholesome, so that they may influence our conduct for the better. But this is not a thing in our power. We cannot compel other people to set a good example to us, nor can we prevent bad conduct from coming to our notice. The lives of other people are beyond our control, and as long as we live in the world we cannot help coming in contact with good and evil both; but it is in our power to see the good and avoid the evil. And it is also in our power to make our own lives good, so that the example that we ourselves set to others may be nothing but beneficial.

There is a proverb which says that example is better than precept. This is so because concrete instances have a stronger influence upon our conduct than abstract teaching. Hence the value of studying the biographies of great and good men. In them we find concrete cases of virtuous living, of heroic resolve, of conspicuous acts of gallantry and sacrifice, and on reading these the heart of the reader naturally feels tempted to imitate the same, and such reading, if it does not transform one into a hero outright, cannot yet fail to stimulate and en-courage the virtuous tendencies of one’s nature.

Example is potent in its influence in every sphere of life, but its influence is irrepressible in the domestic circle. Every child inherits some qualities from its parents, and imbibes many others from the character of those with whom it comes into daily contact. It is therefore the duty of these elders to set nothing but what is good before the eyes of the younger folk. It is in obedience to this duty that many fathers; give up smoking as soon as their boys are of age likely to pick up the vicious habit. Environment has a moulding influence upon all characters, but most upon the softer and more pliable nature of boys and girls. A disorderly household cannot bring up orderly youths.

Next to the influence of home is the influence of the school where a boy receives his education. Teachers ought to remember that is not only the instruction that they pour into the minds of their pupils that influences their character : the private life of the teacher has a more powerful influence still. Every boy knows everything about his teacher’s tastes and habits, his favorite pursuits and his everyday haunts, in fact, every petty detail of his daily life; and every boy learns sooner by what he knows his teacher to be doing than by what he hears his teacher to be speaking. The teacher’s responsibility is very great, far greater than he sometimes thinks, greater probably than that of the parents themselves, even though parents set an example to a few, the teacher sets an example to a very large number of young boys year after year.

When the educational stage is passed, the most telling influence is that of a man’s friends and companions. People of the same age have a natural attraction towards one another, and are therefore drawn to one another by the most accidental circumstances; but people of the same temperament have an irresistible tendency to become associates and companions, and such people will find example pretexts for cultivating acquaintance and friendship. Even where men of different dispositions are associated together, they imbibe traits from one another’s character and tend to become alike. It is therefore of vital importance for us to be careful in the selection of our friends and companions. Bad company can never produce a single good result, and bad companions must be eschewed; however carefully a man may guard himself from their evil influence, for the evil will enter into his nature by an insensible process, and he will never know that his character is undergoing corruption, until it is perhaps too late to remedy.

It is not alone the people who actually live before our eyes that influence our conduct. Distance does not always nullify the influence of example; on the contrary, it sometimes lends an enchantment to it. There is hardly a British seaman of today who does not still feel the influence of Nelson acting power-fully upon him, although Nelson died more than a hundred years ago. This is not because Nelson was a great man, but because he was a good man; for the influence of a good man lives long after that of great men has passed away.

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