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People often drop names to assure the achievement of whatever goal it is they are trying to achieve. This tactic works especially well in business, but it can also work in argument. Names of influential people have influential affects. “I know Don Corleone,” would certainly have gotten nearly anything done in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Both Simone de Beauvoir and Niccolò Machiavelli used the names of well-known people to add a sense of importance and truth to what it was they were saying. Their choice of names is very similar. They both chose fabled heroes, past and present political figures and fictional powers to help their work gain value. However, they differ in a subtle way. The names are used much like a recipe uses measurements: one part politics to two parts fiction. This ratio adds a different tone to each argument, which also helps to get the author’s, de Beauvoir or Machiavelli’s, point across.
In de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, there are many references made to true, verifiable sources. Granted that she makes use of nearly all possible spectrums of existence in terms of beings she chooses to cite, there is an underlying tone of definite truth in her work. She cites these people in packs and lists, using context to categorize her groups. “Some isolated individuals – Sappho [c. 610-c. 580 b.c.], Christine de Pisan [1364-1431], Mary Wollstonecraft [1759-1997], Olympe de Gouges [1748-1793] – have protested against the harshness of their destiny,” (de Beauvoir). “Joan of Arc (1412-1431), Mme Jeanne-Marie Roland (1759-1793), Flora Tristan (1803-1844)…Figures important for their political or revolutionary activity,” (Jacobus: footnote, p 179). In the first case, we see a list of four sure-fire sources, all of whom “protested against the harshness of their destiny.” We find out later in the work that these four people were all authors. In the second case, we see true-life people, all of whom were some how politically involved. De Beauvoir hits us with a rapid-fire bombardment of undeniable truths. When she uses a fictitious character, however, it is usually alone. “The suicide of Lucretia has had value only as a symbol,” (de Beauvoir). Here we see a not-so verifiable citation. It is alone in the text, an island surrounded by a sea of de Beauvoir’s own words. This name is by itself.
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Niccolò Machiavelli, on the other hand, has an extreme sense of context that looms over his writing, The Qualities of a Prince. His citations vary just as much in range, from Cyrus the Great to modern kings of neighboring countries, from Chiron the Centaur to Achilles, as de Beauvoir’s. The difference is that they are very rarely fired off in a string at the reader. Each personage is cited individually (excepting when Machiavelli lists the imitators, p. 37 WOI) and has a whole idea, a whole argument allotted to him. Machiavelli is very deliberate. Every argument is presented individually, and every influential name is given in a manner that is digestible at a healthy rate. There is no hurry to present many undeniable truths so that a small, not-so undeniable fact can fly by while our attention is focused elsewhere. This presentation of facts shows an uncanny comfort in the achievement of the purpose of the work. Machiavelli is cites the people who will most help his argument: the qualities that a prince must have if he is to pull his country out of a troubled time and keep it there. The presentation of facts allows for the complete distruction of the argument…if the country is not in a troubled time. But, his slow, methodical style only helps to prove his point when the context fits.
De Beauvoir uses her majestic hard-truths (strong flavors) in generous portions so that the slightly deniable truths (the “healthy junk”) slides in, helping, but shot down at once once identified. Machiavelli uses a slow-browning process, the crock-pot effect, to get the overall best-desired meal for the occasion. Though both use the same “ingredients” for their pots, the overall meals are two different things all together.