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At first glance the average person might think that the words envious and jealous can be used interchangeably, because they are synonyms, but if you stop and analyze these two words you will find that they are not all that interchangeable. When it comes to deciding what words are kept in a language and what words are eventually replaced by more efficient words, a linguist knows that a language can only stand to keep words that communicate something and that are efficient in that communication process.
Due to the fact that a language only keeps words that are need to communicate something that is unique to that word I believe that the English language would not keep envious and jealous if the two words communicated the same exact message. In the first half of this paper I will analize the word envious and how it is used in literary examples.
Then in the second half of this paper I will look at the word jealous and how it is used in literary texts. Once I have examined both of words I will then compare how the two words differ in their usages. The definition of the word envious is, “Feeling, expressing, or characterized by envy.” (American Heritage® Dictionary) I don’t think that you can really define a word by using the word in the definition so I would like to include the definition of envy because I feel like it accurately defines envious, the adjectival form of envy, as well. The dictionary defines envy as, “A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.”
(American Heritage® Dictionary) The etymology of the word envy is that it comes from “Middle English envie, from Old French, from Latin invidia, from invidus, envious, from invid[pic]re, to look at with envy.” (American Heritage® Dictionary) I think that the invariant meaning of the word envious is to desire something, whether it is tangible or intangible, that someone else has. In the following examples I analyze whether the object of envy is a tangible item, and I also look at the possibility of whether the envy is in a resentful manner. I look at those two specific things because at first glance I thought that envious might be marked for one of these things.
Example one: “At times he regarded the wounded solders in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be partially happy. He wished he, too, had a wound, a [little] red badge of courage.” (Crane 51) In this first example the speakers is envious of how happy the soldiers are. He is envious of something that is intangible and it is of something that he wants to have. I don’t think that the speaker is resentful of the soldiers, but I would say that happiness is something that he desires.
Example two: “She went up to London last winter with her mamma, and there everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but his relations were against the match; and- what do you think?—he and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away: but they were found our and stopped. It was Miss Reed that found them out; I believe she was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat-and-dog life together; they are always quarrelling.” (Bronte 92) In this example Miss Reed is envious of the relationship or love that Miss Georgiana has with some guy. I think that Miss Reed is somewhat resentful in this example and that she desires to have a relationship, which is something intangible, with a man too. Example three: “Margaret found a place as nursery governess, and felt rich with her small salary.
As she said, she was ‘fond of luxury,’ and her chief trouble was poverty. She found it harder to bear than the others, because she could remember a time when home was beautiful, life full of ease and pleasure, and want of any kind unknown. She tried not to be envious or discontented. But it was very natural that the young girl should long for pretty things, gay friends, accomplishments, and a happy life.” (Alcott 34) In this example Margaret has a desire for the nice things and she is reminiscent of a time when she had these things. Margaret wants something tangible in this example and I think there is sort of a felling of resentment at the fact that she doesn’t have these “things.”
Example four: “Noirtier indicated by a look a tray on which were standing a decanter of lemonade and a tumbler. Noirtier himself had drunk some of the lemonade half an hour before. ‘Have some of the lemonade, Borrois,’ the girl said. ‘I can see you are looking at it with envious eyes.’ ‘The fact is, mademoiselle, I am dying of thirst, and I shall be only too glad to drink your health in a glass of lemonade.” (Dumas 454) In this example Borrois desirers to have some of the lemonade which is something tangible. I don’t think that there is any type of resentment but just a strong desire to have something that is not his or her’s. The definition of the jealous is, “Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others.” (American Heritage® Dictionary) The word jealous is the adjectival form of jealousy.
The etymology for the word is that it comes from, “Middle English jelous, from Old French gelos, jealous, zealous, from Vulgar Latin *zlsus, from Late Latin zlus, zeal.” (American Heritage® Dictionary) I think that the invariant meaning of the word jealous is to desire or want something that a rival has. For the word jealous I will analyze whether the word is used to describe a rival and I will look at if it is used with resentment. I believe that the word jealous could be marked for one of these things that is why I chose these things to analyze. Example five: “All Dantes’s success has earned him some jealous enemies.
The purser of his ship, Danglars, eants to become the captain of the Pharaon; Fernand Mondego is in love with Dantes’s fiancée; his neighbor Caderousse is simply envious that Dantes is so much luckier in life than he has been.” (Dumas 637) In this example both jealous and envious are used. I will analyze envious first and then I will analyze jealous. In this example when the author uses the word envious they are describing Caderousse desire to have the luck that Dantes has. Luck is an intangible thing and I don’t think that there is any resement at the fact that Dantes has so much luck. With the example of jealous Dantes’s enemies, which are a rival, are resentful of the success that Dantes has had. Example six: “Miss Bingley saw, or suspected, enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.” (Austen 52)
In this example you can see that Miss Bingley is jealous of someone else who is a rival. I think that there is also resentment in this example because when the author uses the word “suspected” it makes it seem as if Miss Bingley might be bitter about the thing she is jealous of. I think that the jealousy is directed towards another woman that Miss Bingley feel is a rival of her’s. Example seven: “He patted me on the head; but somehow, I didn’t like him or his deep voice, and I was jealous that his hand should touch my mother’s in touching me- which it did. I put it away as well as I could.” (Dickens 21) In this example the boy is jealous of this man that is invading his mother’s and his personal time.
I think that the man would be considered a rival because the boy and the man seem to be competing for the mother’s attention. I would also say that the boy has a resentful tone towards the man and the jealousy is directed towards person. Example eight: “There was nothing too cool or banish
love in these circumstances, though much to create despair. Much too, you will think reader, to engender jealousy: if a woman in my position could presume to be jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram’s.
But I was not jealous, or very rarely; the nature of the pain I suffered could not be explained by the word.” (Bronte 194) In this example the speaker is jealous of Miss Ingram and the position that she holds. Miss Ingram is someone who is a rival of the speaker’s and I think that there is resentment towards Miss Ingram because the speaker desires that person’s position. Example nine: In one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been moved aside a little, and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car.
So engrossed was she that she had no consciousness of being observed, and one emotion after another crept into her face like objects into a slowly developing picture. Her expression was curiously familiar- it was an expression I had often seen on women’s face’s, but on Myrtle Wilson’s face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror were not fixed on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his wife.” (Fitzgerald 99) In this example Myrtle is jealous of Jordan Baker who she believes is Tom’s wife. Myrtle was having an affair with Tom so this is why she is jealous of Jordan who she believes is his wife.
Tom’s wife would be a rival to Myrtle and I also think that Myrtle is resentful in this example. Example ten: Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair opened; then there occurred one of the little skirmished which it is almost impossible to avoid, when some five-and-twenty women, old and young, with all their private piques and prejudices, try to work together.
May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter was a greater favourite than herself; and, just at this time, several trifling circumstances occurred to increase the feeling.” (Alcott 283) In this example May wants to be liked as well as Amy is, and Amy is a rival to May in this passage. I think that May is resentful of Amy and she desires to have the popularity that Amy has.
After analyzing both words and looking at several examples of their uses in literary texts I would say that jealous is marked for (+) rival and that envious is unmarked (+/-) rival. Whenever the word envious is used it refers to the person wanting something that is sometimes tangible and
sometimes intangible, but it isn’t usually used to refer to another person. Envious is sometimes used to refer to an object or an emotion that the other person wants. With the word jealous it is always used with reference to another person and it is always about wanting something that the other person has, and the person that it is referring to is always a rival of that person.
“envious” and “jealous.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. www.bartleby.com/61/. April 27, 2008. Alcott, Louis May. Little Women. London: Crown, 1954.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Random House, 1967. Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Toronto: Bantan Books, 1995. Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage and Four Stories. New York: Penguin Books, 1977.
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. New York: Random House, 1945. Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo. London: Bantan Books, 1963. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Penguin, 1994.