Book Review on Comparing Characters Tartuffe, Candide, and Faust

Book Review on Comparing Characters Tartuffe, Candide, and Faust

Understanding characterization in literature is vital for grasping the dynamics the author is representing in the book. Candide by Voltaire, Tartuffe by Moliere and Faust by Goethe are part of the great books of the Western World written by vivid scholars and illustrious literature enthusiasts. All these works of literature bear supreme characterizations, unique imagery and similar themes that illustrate the imagination of the authors. All the three books are based on single characters but supported by other characters that also play a major role in the stories. A particular uniqueness in the books is the titles which depict the main characters of the books. Candide by Voltaire is based on the character Candide, a young man with high beginnings but gradually faces hardships; the book is supremely satirical and fantastical (Voltaire 7). Tartuffe by Moliere is based on Tartuffe, a pious fraud, and is a theatrical comedy (Moliere and Richard Wilbur 6). Faust by Goethe is based on Faust, a scholar, and is a tragic tale. As such, this paper will explore these three characters from the books and also compare and contrast their roles and personalities.

Tartuffe is an intriguing character. A religious impostor with a fascination for impersonation, Tartuffe uses religious mediocracy to corrupt the credulity of a certain wealthy man who manages to befriend him. Notably, despite his name being the title, Tartuffe is absent in the first two acts, appearing in the third. However, by the third act we can ascertain the character of Tartuffe by how the other characters perceive him. “Fraud” is what Dorine calls him in the first act while Damis statement of his “every action makes me seethe and tremble/with helpless anger” (Moliere and Richard Wilbur 24). Tartuffe is mainly a deceitful man more concerned with acquiring money and wealth at the expense of others. Nevertheless, there are others who view him in a seemingly positive light like Orgon who says he is “an excellent man” and Madam Pernelle labels him a “fine man (Moliere and Richard Wilbur 17)” with a self-accord to his own words. However, it is imperative to note that his character as a “hypocrite” and “impostor” helps him fool Orgon and Madame Pernelle into believing he is an honorable man.  In the play, Tartuffe tricks Orgon to sign off his wealth to him, even when is seducing Orgon’s wife without his knowledge, an illustration that despite his hypocrisy, he is actually a clever man. In the end however, he is brought down by this lust when Orgon learns of his pursuit of his wife and Tartuffe is eventually arrested by the King’s men.

On the other hand, we have Candide. As mentioned earlier, Candide is a character by Voltaire in his book. A rather peculiar character in the book (main character), Candide is portrayed as a gullible, innocent and faithful character. All these are evident in how Candide is trapped in the deceptively optimistic world of Dr. Pangloss. Candide’s name means “white” in Latin a clear illustration of his character at the beginning of the book. Throughout the book, Candide is faced with different life perspectives, some which serve to inflate his optimistic view while others only reduce his positive view of the world. Nevertheless, despite facing numerous adversities like hangings, floggings, and executions among others he still maintains his positive outlook which is a testament of his unending ideology of optimism. Candide is portrayed as a sympathetic hero and this is effective in the book. In the end, however, Candide gets rid of the Pangloss’s optimistic philosophy by adapting a practical view of life. Nevertheless, kindness to others like Brother Giroflee and Cunengonde shows that Candide is kindhearted all illuminated by this particular quote “Candide, yet more moved with compassion than with horror, gave to this shocking beggar the two florins which he had received from the honest Anabaptist James” (Voltaire 22).

Finally, Faust is another character in this group of books. A scholar, Faust is depicted as a disillusioned individual facing a dilemma in his life. He is struggling to establish the true meaning of life. As a scholar and accomplished thinker of his time, Faust has already reached the point of self-actualization but is still struggling to establish the purpose of life. Goethe represents Faust as an “everyman” basically portraying humanity in the form of one individual. He is frustrated by how limited human knowledge is and thus despite accomplishing numerous things, he feels a like a bitter failure. In the end, in his pursuit of the purpose of life and greatness, he makes a deal with Mephistopheles, the devil, to have him give him black magic in exchange of his immortal soul in case he yields to worldly pleasures, to which he agrees (Johann W. Goethe & C.F MacIntyre 23). Ultimately, Faust endures a tragic life beginning with the death of Margarete, his lover, death of his wife and son, Helen of Troy and Euphorion due to succumbing to pleasure. He finally renounces the deal, forming an independent kingdom and going to heaven.

There is a clear distinction between all the characters in these literally works. Nevertheless, they also have some similarities. Faust and Tartuffe share the same characteristic of greediness. Tartuffe is always seeking wealth, money and lust through deception and other means while Faust is more concerned with knowing it all, even the knowledge beyond the realm of human understanding. The character of greediness leads to the eventual demise of both men. However, Faust life, in the end, is positive due to his ultimate reunion with his lover unlike Tartuffe. Faust and Candide also share the same characteristic of gullibility. Candide is trapped in ideology of optimism and Faust is also tricked into believing his pact with the devil would bore positive fruits. All these characters, notably, are striving to get or maintain what they believe will give them satisfaction, for Faust, its knowledge, for Candide its optimism, and for Tartuffe its lust and wealth.

Works Cited

Johann W. Goethe & C.F MacIntyre. Goethe’s Faust, Part 1: new American version. New York: New directions, 1957. Print.

Moliere and Richard Wilbur. Tartuffe: A Comedy in Five Acts: Bilingual ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997. Print.

Voltaire, Francois. Candide. New York: dover publications, 1991. Print.