Irony and Humor
Two popular writing techniques used by many of the enlightenment’s great were irony and humor. Great writers such as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere and Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire made excellent use of these techniques. With humor, both writers wrote stories which kept their audience involved in funny situations, while with irony the writers were able to explain their underlying messages. Born seventy-two years apart, they are a superb example of how these techniques were carried out over time. Moliere’s Tartuffe and Voltaire’s Candide are classic texts, which unmask man and society through their clever dark comedy. After reading these two works, one will undoubtedly see how similar the two author’s perceptions were during this great awakening.
Moliere’s Tartuffe is a great ironic story centered on one man’s family and the trials and tribulations throughout their household. The protagonist in Tartuffe is Orgon. Orgon is portrayed as an over-trusting fool. He is over concerned with his beloved guest to such great extent that he becomes blind to the obvious fallacies that stand before him. As said in scene two by Dorine, “. . . but he’s quite lost his senses since he fell beneath Tartuffe’s infatuating spell. He calls him brother, and loves him as his life, preferring him to mother, child, or wife,” Orgon has put his family and the truth aside from him and has lost his reason (21-22). It is Orgon’s state of mind which this story actually thrives upon. Without the fool, there is no one to take advantage of.
Similarly, Voltaire’s Candide is an ironic story centered on one man’s trials and tribulations through life. The protagonist in the story is Candide. Candide is portrayed as a heartbroken wanderer. Unlike Orgon, he is not an outright fool. He is over concerned with the loss of his beloved to such great extent that he becomes easily mistreated and hopelessly lost. The reader can feel a pity for Candide that he cannot equate with Orgon. Very early in chapter 2 it states, “. . . [Candide] wandered for a long time without knowing where he was going, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven,” which foreshadows how the rest of the story will unfold (338). Like in Tartuffe, it is Candide’s state of mind in which this story also thrives upon. Without losing something great, there can be no reward for finding something great.
Everyone has put faith in something while losing sight of the truth, but hopefully not to the extent that Orgon did. Also everyone has chased a lost cause, or perhaps has lost more than gained, but not to the extent that Candide did. Both Moliere and Voltaire set up their stories with realistic protagonists, ones whom the reader can empathize with, but who are set to extreme natures.
Every protagonist has to have an antagonist; David had Goliath, The People have The Government, and Batman has The Joker. Of course, when you have a fool as great as Orgon, the...