Tartuffe as an Element of the Literary Canon

Pieces that are included into the literary canon are books and other means of text that are considered to be some of the most influential pieces of their time; furthermore, their themes also continue to hold weight for future generations and are revered in future curriculum. These texts can give us lessons and themes that continue to be inherently true, though the diction and syntax may be outdated. Many works are debated upon or argued over when considering whether they should belong in the literary canon.

I believe Tartuffe by Moliere is a timeless piece that would benefit readers for generations still to come. The story of Tartuffe shows the grave dangers that accompany blind faith in anything or particularly anyone, whether it be for simply religious reasons or not.

Believing in, and giving one’s all to a self-proclaimed holy man, brought nothing but strife and indignity upon Orgon and his family. Had Orgon not been blinded by the sheer belief in Tartuffe’s piety, he would never have attempted to collapse his daughter’s wedding to her love, to whom she had already been promised; he also would not have given Tartuffe the rights to his estate as well as his most dearly protected possession.

This lesson of blind faith holds true still today, especially living in the bible belt; children grow up in the church and can even quote scripture, and are taught by their parents from a young age to have blind faith in everything they are taught in church, without questioning anything for themselves.

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Most are able to learn the lesson just as Orgon did and begin to question their blind faith in order to find answers on their own. Just as Orgon was convinced to spy to see Tartuffe as the con-man he truly is, many people put in this position of blind faith as a child, are put in a position one day where they realize they have a need to find answers for themselves. They are surrounded with so many differing opinions, yet their narrow point of view has only exposed them to one thought process. This also speaks to religious tolerance in the sense that if one is not having blind faith in the denotation of their religious texts and subsequently begins to think for themselves, they are able to find, explore, and practice the religion that best suits their beliefs and knowledge.

All of the lessons to be learned through reading Tartuffe are important still today, and will continue to be. The literary canon is the basis for the curriculum studied in schools nowadays, and because of this, students are reading works from long before present day; but because the works included in the canon are timeless and offer wise insight and life lessons, today’s students can still find pleasure and meaning in these accounts. If Tartuffe held true when it was written, as well as today, it goes to stand that it would still be relevant and necessary to curriculum in the future as well.

Though over time, Western and Eastern literature and culture have shared many aspects and, even in certain facets, blended together, these two differing writing styles have assumed their own features which continue to separate them even today. Though these two differeing cultures have in some senses blended, they still continue to differ in most ways. Throughout our class this semester, there have been authors from both Eastern literature- Khan and Ihara Saikaku- and Western literature-Moliere, Jonathan Swift, and Voltaire. There has also been an author who could be considered both Eastern and Western in different characteristics of his writing- Equiano. Though these works and authors may vary in many ways due to the geographical location of where they were written and based, they all are works with lessons and values that continue to hold true today.

Western writing could also be considered, in this time, European writing. Western literature is characterized by aspects of Western culture, traditions, and philosophy of the region. These writings were originally written and published in a European vernacular and concerned the context of Western culture. In Candide, Gulliver’s Travels, and Tartuffe, all three narratives are based in Western settings. These were all written by Western writers so they all originally were published in Europe, in common dialect for the region. Western novels also take more time to explain characters’ or the narrator’s feelings and emotions which gives the reader better insight into their expressions. This also allows for easier reading because the reader can understand better and follow the flow of the writing easier with internal monologue included. Gulliver’s Travels is exemplary at showing the main character’s internal thoughts and monologue in explaining his feelings and observations when he first meets the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.

Eastern literature is marked by the unique aspects of Eastern culture, traditions and philosophy. This unique form of literature has also profoundly influenced Western literature in many ways over time. Eastern influence is not only found in Western culture but has also traversed the globe into other culture as well. Eastern literature has deep roots in most of Asia. Life of a Sensuous Woman is an excellent example of such literature. This account is set in Japan and shares with the reader many aspects of Japanese culture, as well as delving into many aspects of Buddhism and the principles Buddhists and Japanese people live by. This tale shares the philosophies which the old lady lives by, once she realizes she has lived a full and sinful life, and she has decided to change and begin to live her life as her religion sees fit; she does all of this so that she may be reborn in the holy land once her earthly body dies. She lives in a meditation hut in the wilderness, and this story describes the landscape as well as many of the cities she has visited. This Eastern writing shows readers what Eastern life and culture was like in the time this account was written.

The assigned reading of the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, can be viewed as both Western and Eastern literature in a sense. Equiano tells of his journeys throughout the world both during his enslavement as well as once he has purchased his own freedom from his slave master. Through all of his journeys, Equiano travels through both Eastern and Western civilizations and both can be attributed to his writing styles as well as his knowledge he has gained. While most other authors in the sections assigned this semester wrote respectfully, solely in their own country, Equiano traversed both Eastern and Western to bring us an autobiography for the ages, to teach individuals for years to come about the hardships he went through, in hopes future generations would never have to live through any of the difficulties he has seen.

Works Cited

  1. Bates, J. (2018, May 16). Literary canons exclude works no matter how selective canon makers are. Retrieved from The Daily Nebraskan: http://www.dailynebraskan.com/culture/literary-canons-exclude-works-no-matter-how-selective-canon-makers/article_da83def2-ad43-11e2-b07a-0019bb30f31a.html
  2. Britannica, T. E. (2002, August 02). Western Literature. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/art/Western-literature
  3. ‘Eastern literature vs. Western: Why is it different? | Minnie Chen.’ Taipei Teen Tribune. 29 Nov. 2018. 24 Feb. 2019

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Tartuffe as an Element of the Literary Canon. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/tartuffe-as-an-element-of-the-literary-canon/

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