Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Humor at the expense of another in the 1700's

In doing further research since I am presenting on Voltaire I found myself thinking about movies that have been advertised as comedies, but when you seen them, they end up not being comedies at all. An example I saw with a friend recently is Stranger Than Fiction. The preview looked hysterical (trying not to give away spoilers) with Will Ferril screaming about hearing a voice inside his head to, “SHUT UP ,SHUT UP”. If you have seen his other comedies, for example Elf you know he’s a comedic actor.

Without giving too much away, the ending scene is the main character in a hospital room. The ticket ripper at the theatre told me and my friend when it came out in 2004, “It’s not your typical Will Ferril.” I didn’t know what she meant, but it became clear that she was right. People in the theatre were crying.

That is the same feeling I had when I started reading Candide. A satire is meant to be comic, and have the reader LOL ing. When I first began reading it, it took be a little while to do that. It felt like a delayed reaction. Not because I didn’t get what was being made fun of, but because I would not think of a novel written in the 1700’s as entertaining. We have all read books in earlier centuries from Jane Eyre to Vindication of the Rights of Women. The point is who would laugh at someone being beaten to a pulp, or someone getting the deadly disease of syphilis? We’ve all heard the stats in health class of what it can do. I’ll admit, losing the eye, and ear I had to go on to look up where the satire fit in, if at all.

The delayed reaction is understandable though because we are reading something that is not our current history. Reading from the 1700’s is like how people in the year 5000 will think of our writings. But the delayed reaction doesn’t mean that it’s not a satire. The context that Voltaire sets up is meant to be humorous, but it is humor at the expense of someone else, as we have discussed in class. The fact that it was a novel, made me read it closer than the handouts, and I understood it better. With the handouts I had to keep going back and rereading sentences thinking to myself, “Why is this funny.”

I enjoyed the book, and found it interesting that I had to Google why certain areas or jokes were funny, being as the novel is (in my opinion) poking fun at philosophy, and aristocracy mostly. Since Voltaire was also a philosopher, he knew better than anyone whose theories he thought were absolutely ridiculous. The novel was challenging, because of the lack of historical and philosophical knowledge I had, but overall I found it to be very entreating. In doing my research for the presentation, I found that he did not agree with the theories of Leibniz. The way in which he presents it, makes it work though. In using satire, it is not only entertaining to the reader, but it makes the reader look at Voltaire’s personal point of view in a fun way, rather than write some boring novel about how he feels about Leibniz’s philosophies of how the world is created by God in the best way possible.

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