Satire in Moliere’s Tartuffe, Voltaire’s Candide, and Swift’s A Modest Proposal

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines satire as: “literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.” Besides this definition satire can also be seen as the particular literary way of making possible the improvement of humanity and its institutions. In the three works: Moliere’s “Tartuffe,” Voltaire’s “Candide,” and Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” the authors indirectly criticize and ridicule human behavior and characteristics but with the goal for improving these faults rather than just demolishing them.

In Moliere’s “Tartuffe,” although many things and behaviors are satirized, the play focuses mainly on the issue of religious hypocrisy. Whereas Tartuffe is the obvious hypocrite and antagonist who represents those members of society who preach religious piety but do not themselves live by the morals they try to force upon others, Orgon is the complex character through whom this religious hypocrisy is channeled. In the beginning of the play it is hinted that Orgon is perceived as an honorable and respected man by his family and friends, but then through out the play the question raises why he has become such an absurd and unusual person. It seems that Orgon is the type of character who can no longer participate successfully in society and who then retires from society and attacks it. This can also be seen in his mother, Madame Pernelle. Orgon, having reached late middle age, needs to attach himself to a religious person, who beli...
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