Promoting Cannibalism and Religious Hypocrisy:
An Analysis of Satire in Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere’s Tartuffe
and Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”
In literature, satire is a genre that primarily attacks a particular human or societal ill or shortcoming, and is meant to propose progressive steps toward improvement or change. Satirists use a variety of techniques to convey their messages, including irony, parody, comparison, and exaggeration, among others; but the defining characteristic of satires is the use of wit and humor, employed to make the piece superficially appear as an approval of the actual ideas being attacked. Some of the most common objects of ...view middle of the document...
However, the true identity of Tartuffe has not escaped Damis, as he utters: “Good God! Do you expect me to submit/To the tyranny of that carping hypocrite?/Must we forgo all joys and satisfactions/Because that bigot censures all our actions?” (Moliere, 2003). Orgon and Madame Pernelle, on the other hand, are fully convinced of Tartuffe’s religious objectives, and succumb to all of the latter’s dictates. Such influence is validated by Orgon’s statements about Tartuffe in his scene with Cleante: “Under his tutelage my soul’s been freed/From earthly loves, and every human tie:/My mother, children, brother, and wife could die,/And I’d not feel a single moment’s pain.” (Moliere, 2003). In these contrasting impressions of Tartuffe, Moliere at once gives the reader specific ideas on the issue, and the two opposing views that represent society’s current condition and the truth that must be addressed.
The conflict is raised to greater heights when Orgon tells Mariane, who is already engaged to Valere, that she is to marry Tartuffe: “Yes, Tartuffe shall be/Allied by marriage to this family,/And he’s to be your husband, is that clear?/It’s a father’s privilege...” (Moliere, 2003). This point illustrates the depth in which the hypocrisy has affected the family, and is representative of how it is regarded in real life, how society has failed to recognize the falseness. This exact predicament is evident when the rest of the family devises a plan to trick Tartuffe into professing his desire for Elmire, and are all caught by Orgon; to this, Tartuffe delivers the play’s most famous lines, which embody the manipulative essence of the subject: “Yes, Brother, I’m a wicked man, I fear:/A wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted,/The greatest villain that has ever existed.” (Moliere, 2003). To this, Orgon reacts by banishing Damis, and is even coerced by Tartuffe to assign all his property to the latter. But Tartuffe is finally found out when he proclaims his opinion of Orgon: “Why worry about the man? Each day he grows/More gullible; one can lead him by the nose.” (Moliere, 2003). Clearly, the pious facade maintained by Tartuffe had fallen, but was done in the most secretive of moments—as he again attempted to pursue Elmire. This is an accurate depiction of religious hypocrites, or hypocrites in general; the act of doing the very thing they stand against. In this case, it would be coveting someone else’s wife and betrayal. In the end, though Tartuffe tried to claim the family property, he was arrested by a police officer who believed the accounts related by Orgon and his family.
The satirical elements in this work are revealed in the humorous tone used, but more significantly in the development of the theme of religious hypocrisy. Moliere had been quite accurate in portraying the religious of the time, as represented by Tartuffe, as well as the various ways religion and piousness are employed to execute evil deeds. it is no wonder that...