The analysis of characters in any work of fiction will reveal a hidden meaning. The authors always try to portray a message to the reader, thus the reader needs to analyze the work of art closely in order to obtain the meaning. This is done through the writing style and the character in a story or play. Authors use the styles which they are most conversant with in writing the work of art.
An in depth analysis of the books; Life of a Sensuous Woman by Ihara Saikaku, and Tartuffe by Jean- Baptiste Poquelin demonstrates that human beings have flaws and imperfections.
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Orgon, the master of the house in Tartuffe by Jean- Baptiste Poquelin is addicted to the clergyman Tartuffe. He is also pretending to be who he is not. He uses his power in a despicable way, and harasses the women around him. Orgon maintains him in the house despite complaints from the rest of the household regarding his behavior. What is evident in his character is that he is imperfect. He has flaws, which also give birth to injustices in the play. Orgon’s flaws are seen in the form of his weakness to realize that Tartuffe is a fake and a bad man.
The Life of a Sensuous Woman depicts another hypocrite; a lady who behaves in a despicable manner. She does quite an amount of damage to people during her younger ages. First of all, she is a prostitute and she says
“I have revealed my whole life to you
from the day when the lotus of my heart first opened, until its petals withered. I may have lived in this world by selling my body, but is my heart itself polluted (Shirane 23).
She has broken many families by going out with married men. She eventually settles down to a profession she understands very well; managing courtesans.
Similarities in themes
The most obvious similarity between Life of a Sensuous Woman written by Ihara Saikaku, and Tartuffe written by Jean- Baptiste Poquelin is the fact that human beings are never perfect. Tartuffe, Orgon, Madame Pernelle and the protagonist in Saikaku’s Life of a Sensuous Woman behave in a manner contrary to what was expected of them. They go against the norms of the society, thus they are viewed as profound hypocrates.
Orgon is taken as a humorous character that is ridiculed. He is addicted to a clergy man who he believes in so much that he cannot see his flaws. He even goes to the extent of disowning his own son, Damis just because he tried to tell him the truth about Tartuffe. On the other hand, Madame Parnelle is in love with Tartuffe that she does not want to believe that he can be evil. At one time, Orgon realizes that Tartuffe is a hypocrite and tries to explain this to Madame Parnelle, but she does not believe him. He says
“My dear, appearances are not deceiving, and seeing shouldn't always be believing” (Poquellin 306). Dorine scolds Orgon after his discovery by saying “Fortune has paid you fair, to be so doubted; You flouted our report, now yours is flouted” (Poquellin 307).
Tartuffe is a strange character; he manages to fool people for a while until they discover him. He manages to fool Orgon for a long time before he is discovered. He is a greedy character who is also corrupt and abuses his power. Eventually, he tries to get Orgon arrested by presenting incriminating evidence to the police.
The three characters are an explicit explanation of human flaws and imperfections. Human beings are viewed as weak from Orgon’s and Madame Parnelle’s characters. They were too weak to judge the real character of Tartuffe despite the warnings from other people. This is one human imperfection presented in the novel. They eventually realize the truth, but they pay for the consequences of their ignorance.
The protagonist in The Life of a Sensuous Woman is also full of human flaws. She begins having affairs at an early age of twelve and even loses her virginity without being married. This is against the custom, which requires a woman to be a virgin on her wedding night. In her lifetime, she has seduced married men including, her fiance’s father and pretended to be a monk in order to learn how to do abortions and even. She eventually becomes a full time courtesan.
This is a character that goes against every rule in the book. She loses her virginity to a sailor before she gets married. Her life is full of pretences like when she pretends to be a monk, fakes pregnancy and even takes the position of a naive maid. Her flaws are seen through the various pretences that she is unable to hold for a long time. It is difficult to tell who she really is from the descriptions given in the novel. The descriptions are evidences of her inability to uphold her true personality. She has to pretend to be somebody else in order to survive.
Differences in Themes
Saikaku’s book gives the description of a woman who went against all odds to be what she is. She went against every norm in the society. She did not have a straight life as required by the custom. Every woman was supposed to behave in a humble way, get married to a man and suppress her dreams if required to do so. However, the protagonist in this story describes a life full of dynamism. She has been to various places even where she was not supposed to, like in the monastery. She is an independent woman who has never believed in trusting another human being for her livelihood. Therefore, the book is full of feminism.
On the other hand, Tartuffe’s story depicts a life where women were seen as objects. They were not accorded the full respect, which they truly deserved and they depended mostly on the men. This is probably the reason why Orgon did not believe his mother when she tried to warn him of Tartuffe and his bad behaviors.
Gullibility and greed are two themes explicitly evident in Poquelin’s book, but not in Saikaku’s book. Tartuffe is a greedy and corrupt character who tries to have everything for him. He does not care about the hurt he causes other people in the process. Despite warnings from other people, Orgon believes in everything that Tartuffe says. In his quest to protect Tartuffe, he even banishes his own son. The protagonist on Saikaku’s story lives a life whereby she is free and not tied up by anything. Even though she plays evil pranks on people, they are just intended for fun because she does not pursue them too seriously.
The two authors present the fact that to be human is to be imperfect. Nobody is perfect and it is our flaws that make us human beings. However, the flaws also come with a consequence. Poquelin is an author who is trying to inculcate the moral of informed discipleship, not following blindly. As human beings, we should be vigilant and not just follow what others suggest to us. We should have morals and we should not depend on other people to control our lives.