Picaresque Novels

8 August 2016

The term Picaresque was derived from the term “picaro” which means the same with rogue, rascal, bohemian or an adventurer. The term “picaresque” in Literature wasn’t created until in the early 19th century, when the novel Lazarillo de Tormes wtitten by an anonymous writer because of its heretical content was published in 1553 and became popular right then. Most picaresque novels incorporate several defining characteristics according to Thrall and Hibbard on their book A Handbook to Literature.

Such characteristics are the following: The chief figure is drawn from a low social level, is of loose character, and, if employed at all, does menial work; It chronicles a part of the whole of the life of a rogue. It is likely to be in the first person. The novel presents a series of episodes only slightly connected. Progress and development of character do not take place. The central figure starts as a picaro and ends as a picaro. When change occurs, as it sometimes does, it is external, brought about by the picaro’s falling heir to a fortune or by marrying money; The method is realistic.

Picaresque Novels Essay Example

Although the story may be romantic in itself, it is presented with a plainness of language and a vividness of detail such as only the realist is permitted; Thrown with people from every class and often from different parts of the world, the picaro serves them intimately in some lowly capacity and learns all their foibles and frailties. The picaresque novel may in this way be made to satirize social castes, national types, or ethnic peculiarities; The hero usually stops just short of being an actual criminal. The line between crime and petty rascality is hazy, but somehow the picaro always manages to draw it.

Carefree, amoral perhaps, the picaro avoids actual crime and turns from one peccadillo to disappear down the road in search of another Those characteristics may then create a surprise for some who have never intentionally written their novel as picaresque. The terms of the picaresque however requires travel, which might have something to do with the title of what is sometimes cited as the first picaresque novel in English, Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller. Other examples of picaresque novels are Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Tobias Smolett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random to name a few.

In this paper, the novel written by French writer Voltaire entitled Candide will then be analyzed of whether it contains all the seven elements of a picaresque novel listed above. About the Author Born in Paris, France on November 21, 1694, author Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire was known primarily by his pen name, Voltaire. In many ways, he was the most modest and least contemplative of men, certainly among celebrated men of letters who lived during that time. Voltaire discussed philosophy, not himself. He simply could not shake off the notion that it is ill-bred to too much about oneself.

However, towards the end of his life, he did compile an autobiography which he published anonymously under the title Historical Commentary on the works of the author of the Henriade. He considered himself as a dramatist, a historian, and a philosopher. In the autobiographical essay, Voltaire said little about himself and the private elements of his life, but instead focused on his epic poems, nearly all his plays, all his historical writings, and much of his poetry. He even mentioned a few controversial pieces of writing that he had previously disowned.

But his stories (including Candide) went unmentioned in the essay as well as in the over twenty thousand letters he wrote. His interests extended beyond the society of literature in Paris. He took a greater interest in science and technology than was fashionable for his day, and made it interesting for his audiences. We can infer something of his interest in the explorations of the new world, when Voltaire summed up Nouveau France (an area extending from Labrador in Canada, through all of Quebec and Ontario, surrounding the Great Lakes and extending through the American states drained by the Mississippi river system) as “a few acres of snow.

” It is possible that a number of his acquaintances who had spent a winter in North America contributed to that assessment. Voltaire was anything but a country boy; he lived in and felt sustained by the metropolis that was Paris in the eighteenth century. He died in Paris on May 30, 1778. Summary of the Novel “Candide” Candide begins in the German town of Westphalia, where Candide, a young man, lives in the castle of Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh. A noted philosopher, Doctor Pangloss, tutors the baron on philosophical optimism, the idea that “all is for the best . . . in this best of all worlds.

” Candide, a simple man, first accepts this philosophy, but as he experiences the horrors of war, poverty, the maliciousness of man, and the hypocrisy of the church, he begins to doubt the voracity of Pangloss’s theory. In the first chapter, Doctor Pangloss is having an illicit affair with Paquette, a chambermaid. The baron’s beautiful daughter, Cunegonde, witnesses the affair and decides to try something similar with Candide. When the baron catches them, Candide is kicked out of the castle. Hungry and cold, Candide makes his way to a neighboring town, where he is aided by two soldiers.

He is pressed into service and endures beatings at the hands of his superiors. He runs away, coming across war-torn villages in the process and witnessing the horrors of war firsthand. Candide makes his way to Christian Holland, where he hopes to find charity but finds hardhearted people, save one, an Anabaptist, who shows Candide kindness and generosity. Candide then meets a beggar who is suffering from a disfiguring disease and soon discovers that the beggar is Doctor Pangloss. Pangloss recounts his recent experiences, including the death of the baron and his family at the hands of soldiers.

In spite of Pangloss’s condition and the horrors around him, the good doctor still believes in philosophical optimism. The Anabaptist sees to it that Pangloss is cured, and then takes him and Candide to Lisbon via ship. When a storm blows up, the Anabaptist is killed trying to save a sailor; the ship later breaks up, leaving Candide, Pangloss, and the rescued sailor as the only survivors. No sooner do they land on the Lisbon shore than an earthquake shakes the city; in response, church leaders decide to show an auto-da-fe, or act of faith, which includes a sacrifice of people. Pangloss is hanged, but Candide survives, helped by an old woman.

The old woman cleans and feeds Candide, and then takes him to Cunegonde, who survived the brutal attack on the baron’s family. She is living with two powerful men who try to share her affections, and she was responsible for saving Candide from the killings during the auto-da-fe. Cunegonde’s two men come upon the young lovers, and Candide kills them both. Frightened, Candide, Cunegonde, and the old woman escape to a port city, where a military vessel is loading up for a mission in Paraguay. Candide’s military training impresses the Spanish general, and Candide is made a captain with command of an infantry.

With Cunegonde and the old woman, Candide sails for South America. During the voyage, the old woman tells her story, which is horrific — she has suffered far more than anyone else in the party. Candide begins to seriously question Pangloss’s theory of philosophical optimism. In Buenos Aires, they meet the governor, Don Fernando, who takes an interest in Cunegonde and asks for her hand in marriage. Candide is heartbroken, but he cannot stay and fight for Cunegonde, because he must flee from police officers who traced Candide to the region.

Aided by Cacambo, a valet, Candide escapes and soon meets the Reverend Father Commander, leader of a Jesuit army in Paraguay. The commander turns out to be Cunegonde’s brother, who was left for dead when his mother and father were killed in Westphalia. The two catch up until Candide reveals that he is love with Cunegonde and hopes to someday marry her; the baron’s son is so enraged by this notion that a fight ensues, and Candide kills the man. Again, Candide flees with Cacambo and, before long, the two face the Oreillons, who at first nearly kill Candide but soon treat him hospitably.

Upon leaving their company, Candide and Cacambo come to Eldorado, a country filled with gold and jewels for which the citizens have no use, because everyone’s needs are met by the government. Eldorado also has no court rooms or prisons, because citizens treat each other fairly and do not break laws. The citizens of Eldorado believe in God but never pray in supplication — they only give thanks because they have all they need. Eager to find Cunegonde, Candide and Cacambo leave Eldorado with a team of red sheep loaded with gold, jewels, and other supplies.

When they reach Surinam, the two traveling companions split up, with Cacambo heading in secret to Buenos Aires to buy the release of Cunegonde, and Candide heading to Venice, where he will not be sought by the police. Candide is victimized by a ship’s captain, a ruthless man named Mynheer Vanderdendur, and the judge from whom Candide seeks redress. Dejected, Candide advertises a contest for the most unfortunate man he can find; an elderly scholar named Martin wins the contest and becomes Candide’s new traveling partner. The two head to France, en route to Venice.

In Paris, Candide becomes ill and is attended by a variety of people, all of whom want a piece of his fortune. He recovers, but is tricked by an actress into giving away much of his fortune and is eventually arrested by the police, who are suspicious of all strangers. From there, Candide and Martin are sent to England, where they witness more violence, and then finally reach Venice. Through various discussions and wagers with Martin, as well as meetings with a variety of people, Candide comes to lose faith in philosophical optimism.

Soon, Candide finds Cacambo, now a slave, who informs Candide that Cunegonde is in Constantinople, working as a servant. Candide buys Cacambo’s freedom, and the three men travel toward Constantinople. They soon meet Pangloss and the baron’s son, both of whom were presumed dead, and discover that, back in Lisbon, the noose on Pangloss’s neck slipped, while the baron’s son recovered from Candide’s stab wound. The five set off to find Cunegonde, who is with the old woman and is no longer beautiful, and Candide buys their freedom, as well.

When the baron’s son again steps in the bar Candide’s marriage to Cunegonde (a marriage Candide no longer desires), the party kills the baron’s son. Candide marries Cunegonde and buys a small farm with the last of his Eldorado fortune. The entire party — Candide, Cunegonde, Cacambo, Martin, Pangloss, and the old woman — live there together, and are soon joined by Paquette and her companion, Friar Giroflee. They discuss philosophy and are utterly miserable until they meet a happy Turk relaxing under a tree. The Turk explains that he has only a small farm but he is happy because he works it with his children.

The farm meets his needs and saves him from boredom and evil desires. Candide decides that this is how his little group will find happiness, and they begin to work their farm. Chapter 2 – Analysis Most picaresque novels incorporate several defining characteristics according to Thrall and Hibbard on their book A Handbook to Literature 7th Ed. In this paper, the novel written by French writer Voltaire entitled Candide will then be analyzed of whether it contains all the seven characteristics. First Characteristic – Main character is often of low character or social class. He or she gets by with wit and rarely deigns to hold a job.

“In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul. He combined a true judgment with simplicity of spirit, which was the reason, I apprehend, of his being called Candide. The old servants of the family suspected him to have been the son of the Baron’s sister, by a good, honest gentleman of the neighborhood, whom that young lady would never marry because he had been able to prove only seventy-one quarterings, the rest of his genealogical tree having been lost through the injuries of time. ” (Chap1. Par1) Candide’s mother preferred to raise Candide fatherless than marry a man of lower social status. This quote indicates that Candide lived his childhood with a comfortable life because of the sacrifice done by his mother. “Oh, sir,” said one of the blues to him, “people of your appearance and of your merit never pay anything: are you not five feet five inches high? ” “Yes, sir, that is my height,” answered he, making a low bow. “Come, sir, seat yourself; not only will we pay your reckoning, but we will never suffer such a man as you to want money; men are only born to assist one another.

” (Chap2. Par5-8) Hungry and cold, Candide makes his way to a neighboring town, where he is aided by two soldiers. The military recruiters he met along the way use Candide’s status to flatter and manipulate him. This is where his suffering sets in. He is pressed into service and endures beatings at the hands of his superiors. “That is all I want,” said Candide, “for I intended to marry her, and I still hope to do so. ” “You insolent! ” replied the Baron, “would you have the impudence to marry my sister who has seventy-two quarterings!

I find thou hast the most consummate effrontery to dare to mention so presumptuous a design! ” Candide, petrified at this speech, made answer: “Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world signify nothing; I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew and of an Inquisitor; she has great obligations to me, she wishes to marry me; Master Pangloss always told me that all men are equal, and certainly I will marry her. ” “We shall see that, thou scoundrel! ” said the Jesuit Baron de Thunder-ten-Tronckh, and that instant struck him across the face with the flat of his sword. (15. 5-9) This conversation between Candide and the Baron shows how Candide’s social status makes way for him to not be able to marry the woman he loves. The Baron is more concerned with issues of status than with the worth of Candide’s actions and character. Second Characteristic – It chronicles a part of the whole of the life of a rogue or an adventurer. It is most often to be in the first person narrative. Candide is a youth brought up in the house of the Baron of Westphalia. Driven out of the house after he falls innocently in love with the Baron’s daughter, he undergoes many adventures in various places in Europe and the New World.

Some of them are funny, some are sad, and some are eerie. His eyes open to reality. He sees that everything does not happen for the best as the philosophers and metaphysician Pangloss had told him in the Baron’s castle. In Europe as well as in America, he encounters misery. He meets a number of people from various walks of life. He comes across many philosophers ranging from extreme optimism to the miserable pessimism. He experiences the love and total selflessness and also extreme cruelty and selfishness. The novel documents this journey and is written in third person omniscient point of view.

It chronicles a part of the whole of the life of Candide as an adventurer though it doesn’t keep up with the characteristic of being written in the first person perspective. Third Characteristic – The novel presents a series of episodes only slightly connected. Candide contains thirty episodic chapters, which may be grouped into two main schemes: one consists of two divisions, separated by the protagonist’s break in El Dorado; the other consists of three parts, each defined by its geographical setting. By the former scheme, the first half of Candide constitutes the rising action and the last part the resolution.

This view, according to Williams in his book Voltaire, Candide is supported by the strong theme of travel and quest, reminiscent of adventure and picaresque novels, which tend to employ such a dramatic structure. Fourth Characteristic – Progress and development of character do not take place. Candide begins the novel as a perfect innocent believer of his tutor Pangloss’s unwise philosophy about optimism, and completely unfamiliar with the ways of the world. Over the course of the novel though, Candide acquires wealth and even some knowledge about the world, and begins to question his faith in optimism.

Yet that faith remains and is frequently reactivated by any event that pleases him. At the end of the novel, Candide rejects Pangloss’s philosophizing in favor of the practical labor that is introduced to him by the old farmer. While this shift in philosophy appears on the surface to be real progress, Candide’s personality remains essentially unchanged. He is still incapable of forming his own opinions, and has simply exchanged blind faith in Pangloss’s opinions for blind faith in the opinions of the farmer. Fifth Characteristic – The method is realistic.

Although the story may be romantic in itself, it is presented with a plainness of language and a vividness of detail such as only the realist is permitted. According to an article contributed by Paula Johanson in Beacham’s Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Voltaire was one of the most voluminous writers of all time and he had much to say. He used a larger vocabulary than any of his non-technical contemporaries, and by his clear, flexible precision, he avoided much of the indirectness so often found in French prose. Often, he included extremely technical words in a very readable sentence, to improve the exactness of what was being said.

It is almost impossible to translate this story from the French without capturing something of the stilted, formal prose and the satirical tone of the original. Voltaire never lets go of his sense of humor, even when describing acts of torture and barbarism. It is not that he marvels at or laughs at human cruelty; he simply finds it absurd that people think so well of themselves and the world when they do so many terrible things to each other. This sense of humor seems to sustain Candide as well, or at least keeps him marveling at each turn of events.

The reader’s interest in Candide is perpetually renewed, despite a series of depressing events alternating with opportunities for adventure. Candide’s good humor is as simple as his earnest willingness to go on breathing and eating even when beaten or beggared. Sixth Characteristic – Thrown with people from every class and often from different parts of the world, the picaro serves them intimately in some lowly capacity and learns all their eccentricities and frailties. Candide along with different characters moves from place to place and from event to event. His adventures are tragic, comic, and sometimes uncanny.

Some of the most serious incidents are unbelievable yet humorous. It is an adventure story wherein the hero and his colleagues experience earthquakes, pirates, wars, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and also sudden and unexpected rescue. The adventures are sometimes too ridiculous. Hence some of them are unbelievable. Despite his simplicity, Candide is an effective, sympathetic character. He is fundamentally honest and good-hearted. He readily gives money to strangers like Brother Giroflee and the poorest deposed king, and he honors his commitment to marry Cunegonde even after his love for her has faded.

Seventh Characteristic – The hero usually stops just short of being an actual criminal. The line between crime and petty rascality is hazy, but somehow the picaro always manages to draw it. From the time he was made to leave the castle till the end of the novel, Candide goes through various adventures. He gradually matures from an innocent boy to an experienced and practical man. When he is offered a choice between execution and flogging, he learns that one does not always have a choice between good and bad. One has to sometimes choose between bad and worse. He is terrorized by war and earthquakes.

He often starts doubting Pangloss’s theory. He kills to protect himself. His faith is restored though from time to time when he comes across goodness in an otherwise evil society. Through a series of adventures – tragic, comic, and eerie, he becomes an experienced mature person. There is sin and sufferings everywhere except in Eldorado. Eldorado is a haven of peace and joy. The king is free from vanity and welcomes him as his equals. Yet he does not stay long on this earthly paradise. He goes in search of Cunegonde. Whenever he is unable to find her he regresses to bleak pessimism.

At such times he feels that Martin is right in saying that there is nothing but illusion. Candide often wonders whether Pangloss’s philosophy is right. He questions him whether he thought all was for the best even when he was mercilessly beaten, hanged and dissected. Finally, he politely but firmly rejects Pangloss’s philosophy and also Martin’s extreme pessimism. The Dervish who tells him not to meddle in philosophical questions impresses him. According to him, the three great evils (boredom vice and need) can only be conquered through work. And so Candide is a character that did not really stop short of being an actual criminal.

He is carefree, not really amoral and though he might have committed certain crimes, like killing someone for self-defense, he did not really turn from one wrongdoing to another. Chapter 3 – SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION Summary Five out of the seven defining characteristics of picaresque novels according to Thrall and Hibbard on their book A Handbook to Literature, are incorporated in Voltaire’s Candide. Those five characteristics are the following: First, the chief figure is drawn from a low social level, is of loose character, and, if employed at all, does menial work.

Candide is a youth brought up in the house of the Baron of Westphalia. He was driven out of the house after he falls innocently in love with the Baron’s daughter. He has to suffer in the hands of manipulative soldiers, drunken sailors and he could not win the woman of his interests because of his unstable, sometimes low social status. He never had a real job not right until on the end part that he accepted the notion that through work one can avoid the three great evils (boredom, vice, and necessity). Second, the novel presents a series of episodes only slightly connected.

Candide contains thirty episodic chapters, which may be grouped into two main schemes: one consists of two divisions, separated by the protagonist’s break in El Dorado; the other consists of three parts, each defined by its geographical setting. Third, progress and development of character do not take place. While there was a shift in Candide’s long held philosophy from Pangloss about optimism, Candide’s personality remains essentially unchanged. He is still incapable of forming his own opinions, and has simply exchanged blind faith in Pangloss’s opinions for blind faith in the opinions of the farmer.

Next, the method is realistic. Although the story may be romantic in itself, it is presented with a plainness of language and a vividness of detail such as only the realist is permitted. Voltaire used clear, flexible precision of words on this novel. Often, he included extremely technical words in readable sentences, to improve the exactness of what was being said. This story is carefully written to suit both the content and purpose. With a light touch and precise language, Voltaire gives this pleasant story an underlying serious intent.

Fifth, thrown with people from every class and often from different parts of the world, the picaro serves them intimately in some lowly capacity and learns all their foibles and frailties. Candide, along with different characters moves from place to place and from event to event. His adventures are tragic, comic, and sometimes uncanny. Despite his simplicity, Candide is an effective, character who readily gives money to strangers like Brother Giroflee and the poorest deposed king, and he honors his commitment to marry Cunegonde even after his love for her has faded. However, the other two characteristics were not incorporated in this novel.

Those are: It chronicles a part of the whole of the life of a rogue or an adventurer. It is most often in the first person narrative. The novel chronicles a part of the whole of the life of Candide as an adventurer but it’s written in third person omniscient point of view. And the hero usually stops just short of being an actual criminal. Candide is a character that did not really stop short of being an actual criminal. He is carefree, not really amoral and though he might have committed certain crimes, like killing someone for self-defense, he did not really turn from one wrongdoing to another.

Conclusion In Candide, Voltaire follows the tradition of the picaresque novel. The hero along with different characters moves from place to place. He goes through a series of adventures. There is no doubt that Voltaire exaggerates this technique. Tragic as well as comic events are sudden and the coincidences are often unbelievable. Characters who are considered to be dead suddenly make their appearance again in the novel. Thus, the reader is surprised, but such happenings are not very unusual in a picaresque novel.

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