Wednesday, February 3, 2010

eating babies vs. eating Jesuits

Eating can be a pretty touchy subject for some people. Some people are overweight from eating too much, others fall into eating disorders and eat too little. However, eating can also be a touchy subject when it means eating another human being, which is what we see in Voltaire's satirical text, Candide.
While reading this book I was searching for something very interesting to write about, and found it about halfway through the book in Chapter XVI: Adventures of the Two Travellers, with Two Girls, Two Monkeys, and the Savages called Oreillons. In this chapter Candide and Cacambo, his valet, are traveling after they fled from Reverend Father Colonel in the previous chapter. As they are traveling, the come across two women who are running around naked from two monkeys who are "pursuing them and biting the buttocks" (37). As Candide was witnessing this, he began to feel remorse for the young women, so he killed the two monkeys believing he had done them a favor. Candide is completely puzzled when he finds out that he actually killed their "sweethearts" or lovers. Immediately, this struck me as ridiculous and strange, but I feel that now I am able to see a correlation here. I feel that a good majority of us girls in this class can say that we have dated the "bad guy" or the "rebel" once in our lifetime. You know, the guy who treats you poorly and does not really respect you for who you are. The one who cannot see your true beauty. Well, to me Voltaire points out our stupidity in going for "that guy" here in this chapter. To compare, we are those naked women, and those dreadful young men are the monkeys chasing us and just "biting our butts" treating us as if we are animals. The ironic thing about it is, as Voltaire displays it, in fact they are the animals after all. They are the ones who get beaten down by the nice guy in the end. We, the women, may be upset at first, but sooner or later we know we will move on and find someone better who loves us for who we are.
I also found that this chapter brought about an example of what I find to be the most ridiculous yet funny type of satire; eating humans. This concept of eating other humans just seems so completely far fetched and far removed from society, that to read about people who actually find it normal seems humorous. In this chapter, Candide is fearing for his life because the natives (the Oreillons) of where they are wandering about are angry that they killed the women's lovers. Candide is afraid that the Oreillons are going to eat them because they believe he is a Jesuit and scream "let us eat him up!" (38). Then Cacambo gives this long speech to the people, and you are expecting him to come right out and say "EATING HUMANS IS NOT HUMANE" like we all believe. Rather, he doesn't disagree that killing your neighbor is common all over the world, but that they shouldn't kill and eat Candide because he is indeed NOT a Jesuit like they expected. After reading this I was brought right back to Senior year of High School when we read Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, however, Rather than eating Jesuits, the narrator talks about eating babies and how poor children can be fattened up and fed to the richer inhabitants of Ireland. While the two contexts are very different, I just found it odd that two satirical works focus on a similar concept of eating other members of the human race. I couldn't help but wonder after reading both these texts, what is the infatuation with writing satire based on cannibalism? To conclude this blog I feel that I should answer my own question with a concept we talked about in class. Humor, including satire, seems to focus on ridiculous people in normal situations or normal people in ridiculous situations. These two examples, Chapter 16 of Candide and A Modest Proposal, deal with normal people in absolutely ridiculous situations. It is so out of the blue that two people in an unknown territory are going to come across a tribe of people who are going to want to eat them because of their thought to be religious background, just as it is not likely that the poor people of Ireland are going to fatten their babies up for richer natives to eat. This ridiculousness makes these situations funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment