The Ingenu

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By: BJM Le Connaissance Nouveau de L'Ingenu Francios-Marie Arouet's, assuming the pen-name of Voltaire, L'Ingenu is a satirical story that begins in 1689 when a ship of English merchants are coming to France to trade. This is when the Ingenu is first introduced. The French are most intrigued by his appearance. Because of a picture believed to be the brother and sister-in-law of the Abbe de Kerkabon and Mademoiselle de Kerkabon, the Kerkabons felt that they saw a resemblance and take him in as their nephew. This is only the beginning. With no set beliefs, the Huron comes to live with these people of France and is taught to live as they do. Under appearingly unfortunate circumstances, he becomes imprisoned and able to educate himself. He learns of the French society on a hands-on basis by feeling their cruelty. This Child of Nature symbolizes John Locke's "blank tablet". The Ingenu, also known as the Child of Nature, Becomes enlightened through his experiences with French society by having no prior worldly knowledge of his own, being taught by the French, and disregarding everything they have taught him to learn for himself the lessons of French society.

The Child of Nature comes into the French society with no worldly knowledge of his own or beliefs. He is a spontaneous, curious young Huron and is viewed as quite naive. The French feel that they can easily mold him into their society. All he has are his youthful charming looks, "HE was hatless, and hoseless, and wore little sandals; his head was graced with long plaits of hair; and a short doublet clung to a trim and supple figure. He had a look about him that was at once martial and gentle" (Voltaire, 190) and an awkward manner of being courteous to the Kerkabons "all with such a simple, natural air that brother and sister both were charmed" (Voltaire, 190). When asked countless questions, "the traveler's answer would be very much to the point" (Voltaire, 191). Instead of in a roundabout way in which was inevitable if their roles are to be reversed. "The Huron did not turn a hair" (Voltaire, 191). But does speak his mind when the questions were coming too fast. He simply and clearly tells them, "Gentlemen, where I come from, people take it in turns to speak" (Voltaire, 191). Upon questioning him, they find out that he has no particular religion. He isn't Catholic as they had felt that the Jesuit Fathers might have converted him to being. This is when they ultimately decide "We will baptize him" (Voltaire, 194), and were ready to make him one of them. Taken aback, the Child of Nature lets them know "that in England they let people live as they pleased" (Voltaire, 194). Upon preparing to depart, he leaves the Prior and Mademoiselle with his most valued possession, a little trinket that "consisted of two rather poorly drawn little portraits tied together with an extremely greasy strap (Voltaire, 195)". The Kerkabons think he is their nephew because the people in the portraits looked like the brother and sister-in-law of the Abbe de Kerkabon and Mademoiselle de Kerkabon. Thus after this assumption, the Kerkabons teach him their way of living. The Child of Nature comes to be taught by the French, whom almost successfully rub their religion off on him. He is rather shy still, but questions why they don't live up to what the Bible says. He is ready to be castrated, because everyone in the Bible is, but they tell him that it is no longer done. When the day finally comes for him to be baptized, he is nowhere to be found. When they were about to give up looking for him, they find him standing naked in a cold river waiting to be baptized. He becomes frustrated with them because of this hypocrisy. "You're not going to pull the wool over my eyes this time the way you did the last. I've gone into things a lot since then, and I am quite certain that there is no other way of being baptized"(Voltaire, 202). His view on the French's lifestyle is "I defy you to show me in that book you gave me any other way of going about it"(Voltaire, 202). He is real agitated when he falls in love with Mademoiselle de Saint-Yves and is denied her hand in marriage because she is his godmother. He also felt he should not need anybody else's permission to be with her. When told he may receive permission through the Pope, he is perturbed. He feels the most betrayed when she is locked up away from him. After going through a real hard time, he decides to burn down the Coventry where she is locked up. Before he goes, however, he is approached by some upset up Frenchmen. These Frenchmen tell him that the English are unfairly attacking them. He is asked to fight and does so valiantly. Upon his bravery and good deed, he is sent to notify the King of his achievements. Upon arriving at the palace, he finds it hard to see people. Later on that night, while sleeping, he is imprisoned with an older Jesuit that has gained knowledge himself over the years. The Ingenu then learns of persecution from Gordon, the Jesuit, which is a total shock to him. Confused about all that he has come across, The Child of Nature takes on reading and learning of the world from different authors' perspectives. He throws out all of the previous knowledge he had attained, and starts on his own "blank tablet". By the time he is released due to Mademoiselle de Saint Yves, he is a changed man. He is no longer the spontaneous, young, and naive Huron the people have known him to be. He is able to understand life and deal with his sorrows he encounters. "Doubtless he was the most alarmed and upset of all, but he had learned to add discretion to all the happy gifts which nature had showered upon him, and a ready sense of what is proper was beginning to dominate in him"(Voltaire, 249). He has learned of the horrors of the world. He shares in on the radical views of the time. After all of his adventures, big and small, he comes to the conclusion that "an ill wind blows nobody any good"(Voltaire, 255). The Child of Nature becomes enlightened through his experiences with French society by having no prior knowledge, being taught by the French, and disregarding everything they have taught him to learn for himself the lessons of French society. He starts representing Locke's "blank tablet" which opens itself to beliefs of any kind. This tablet is filled with the thoughts of the cruel French society. The Child of Nature's enlightenment comes when he takes it upon himself to erase the thoughts and beliefs on this tablet and fill it up with his own. Voltaire's L'Ingenu is just an example of a man becoming enlightened during the Age of Enlightenment. It classifies itself as a standard for other stories of enlightenment.

Word Count: 1183