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A Comparison of Satire in Voltaire's Candide and Gulliver's Travels Essay

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A Comparison of the Satire of Candide and Gulliver's Travels


An impartial observer has the ability to make the most critical and objective observation on society and the behavior of man. This impartial observer would see the truth as it is. This same premise may be applied to literary works. A naive character or narrator may be used as an impartial observer, who reveals social truths to the audience through his or her naivete. As Maurois has noted, in writing about Candide, by Voltaire," It was novel of apprenticeship, that is, the shaping of an adolescent's ideas by rude contact with the universe" (101). Jonathan Swift also takes this approach in his work Gulliver's Travels, where Gulliver, the main character, provides a impartial point of reference.

The satires Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, and Candide, by Voltaire, both make use of naivete to convey satirical attacks on society. In both works, litotes [understatements] are made of extremely absurd situations, which further illuminates the ridiculous nature of a situation. Characters in each novel are made vulnerable by their overly trusting natures. This is taken advantage of, and these characters are left exploited by corrupt people in society. Attacks are also made on authority figures of the world. This can be seen in the characters' reaction to authority. Finally, both works are travel tales, which expose the main characters to many perspectives. This allows the authors to satirize many aspects of society.

These two satirical works make litotes of preposterous situations, thus shedding light on the absurdity at hand. This is an especially effective technique, because a character or narrator is involved in a ridiculous situation. The reader, from an...


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... French Novelist Manners and Ideas. New York: D Appleton and Company, 1929.

"Introduction to Gulliver's Travels." Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Major Authors. Ed. M.H. Abrhams et al. Sixth ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995.

Lawler, John. "The Evolution of Gulliver's Character." Norton Critical Editions.

Maurois, Andre'. Voltaire. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1932.

Mylne, Vivienne. The Eighteenth-Century French Novel. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1965.

Pasco, Allan H. Novel Configurations A Study of French Fiction. Birmingham: Summa Publications, 1987.

Quintana, Ricardo "Situation as Satirical Method." Norton Critical Editions: Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Robert A Greenberg. New York: W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1961.

Van Doren, Carl. Swift .New York: The Viking Press, 1930.


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