Similar Troubles In Dissimilar Times Essay, Research Paper
Similar Troubles in Dissimilar Times:On the comparison of Jailbird and Candide The experiences of Walter F. Starbuck in Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird, and of Candide in Voltaire’s Candide, were both used to express what Vonnegut and Voltaire disapproved of in their respective societies. Although a span of over two hundred years existed between Vonnegut’s and Voltaire’s writings, many of the circumstances their main characters experienced were similar. Candide and Starbuck have similar views on life and the best of all possible worlds. Their views are influenced specifically by the lives and opinions of the minor characters they encounter. Voltaire’s and Vonnegut’s similar views towards war are portrayed through Candide, Starbuck, and many of the characters they encounter. They use these characters to point out that war is pointless, and to show the hardships, gruesomeness, and how people fight for causes they do not believe. Two men who find Candide on the side of the road see that he is at least five foot five, so they take him in and feed him. They ask him “if you do not deeply love the King of the Bulgarians?” Candide replied “Not at all, for I have never seen him” (Candide 3). They then told him “Now you are the help, the support, the defender, the hero of the Bulgarians. Your fortune is made, and your glory is assured” (Candide 4). Candide then ran the gauntlet and fought in the war against the Abares for a King he did not know. This shows how little people did the actual fighting and dying for the big people’s wars. The Abares and the Bulgarians were probably neighboring countries, and were probably friends, but were forced to leave their farms and other occupations to fight against each other, all because their kings had a disagreement about something. Many of the people fighting in this war were poverty stricken, the little people of the lowest social classes. Voltaire shows how unfair it is for these people to fight for their kings who lives lavishly, yet does nothing to help them in their state of need. Candide had to fight in this war, and was neither Bulgarian or Abares. Voltaire uses this to further emphasize how people fight in wars that they know nothing about.The old woman’s galley was raided by the Knights of Malta, and the passengers were carried to Morocco to be slaves. Morocco swam in blood when we arrived. Fifty sons of the Emperor Muley-Ismael had each their adherents; this produced fifty civil wars, of blacks against blacks, and blacks against tawnies, and tawnies against tawnies, and mulattoes against mulattoes. In short it was a continual carnage throughout the empire. (Candide 25)This quote shows how little people fight against their fellow people, and even possibly their family and friends for the big people. Voltaire makes a point that it is not just the blacks fighting against the mulattoes, or the tawnies against the blacks, but that they were fighting against their own people. The old woman watched as everyone was killed, raped, and mangled. The old woman then became the property of an Aga of the Janissaries who was ordered away to defend the Azof, who were besieged by the Russians. While in a fort, the Russians used famine to force them out. Instead they ate one another, and spared the old woman eating only one of her buttocks. Voltaire uses the old woman to show the dreadfulness of war, and how innocent people are killed merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Voltaire shows the extremes people go to while at war. They even lower themselves to eat each other, while many of them do not even know the cause for which they are fighting their own people. This again shows little people fighting and dying all because of a conflict between two big people. Starbuck’s wife Ruth was a perfect example of the tragedies of war, after spending seven years of her life in a German concentration camp, just for being Jewish. Her father, mother, and two siblings were all killed in the concentration camps. When Starbuck first saw her, she had just been released and resembled an anorexic boy. After personally seeing the hardships war can cause, Ruth said, “when you kill Evil here in Nuremburg, be sure to bury it at a crossroads and drive a stake through its heart-or you just might see it again at the next full moooooooooooooooooon” (Jailbird 69). This quote is used to show that after a war as horrible as World War II most people would think that there is no possibility of war in the future. Ruth knows better than this and says that people must be careful or else this will continue to repeat itself in the future. Vonnegut uses Ruth to show the effects of war on innocent people. Ruth was not on either side of the fighting, yet was caught in the middle and was forced to experience the hardships of war based solely upon her heritage.
Cleaveland Lawes, who was a black man, was captured by the Chinese in the Korean War. The Chinese major in charge of his prison had been a Harvard man. Lawes eventually became friends with this major and was persuaded to return to China after the war instead of returning to his home in Georgia. Vonnegut uses this to show that China, the country Lawes was fighting against, turned out to be a better place to live than America. Lawes was probably safer at war than in his own country, where family and friends had been killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Lawes says that “They couldn’t stand it that even one American, even a black one, would think for even a minute that maybe America wasn’t the best country in the world.” (Jailbird 133). This quote shows that the Americans did not want to believe that another country let alone a communist country might be a better place to live. Vonnegut portrays the Chinese major as being from Harvard to show that you could be fighting against a classmate or friend at war, and not even realize it. Lawes and the major are used to show that our opponents at war are not any different than us. Lawes being a little person is forced to fight for America which is supposed to be the land of the free, while the country they are fighting against is supposed to be unfair to their people, yet Lawes ends up being more free in China. Voltaire and Vonnegut both use their major and minor characters to make fun of religion. They do this by portraying people of the church as hypocritical, and by putting their characters through hardships that they believe no god would allow to happen. Candide went back and forth believing that the world was the best of all possible worlds because God created it. Voltaire portrayed Candide this way to show that many religious people base their thoughts on what others tell them, and do not form their own beliefs. Candide was too simple of a person to worry about things other than what affected him at a certain moment. When asked whether or not he believed the pope to be the Antichrist, “I have not heard it,” answered Candide; “but whether he be, or whether he be not, I want bread” (Candide 6) One of the only kind people, and the only religious person who was not a hypocrite in Candide, was James the Anabaptist. The Anabaptist took in Candide and Pangloss in their times of need. While on a ship the Anabaptist saved a brutish sailor, only to be knocked overboard in return. Voltaire uses this to show that the kind at heart cannot survive in a corrupt society. The Anabaptist who was not hypocritical or greedy, ended up dying, while the people who did the things against their religion survived. Voltaire uses this to show that these people used their roles in religion solely to have power over others. President Nixon asks Starbuck why he had been so ungrateful to the American economic system when he had been treated so well by America. He replied, “Why? The Sermon on the Mount, Sir” (Jailbird 306). Vonnegut says this to show that almost everything that happens in America, which is supposedly perfect, goes against the Bible. A couple of the beatitudes that Vonnegut used to show the problems with society are, “Blessed are the meek, for the will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (New International Version, Matthew 5:1-11). Starbuck was portrayed as being meek, yet he certainly did not inherit the earth. This trait only brought more problems upon him. Serving time in jail for crimes he did not commit and his son disowning him are just a couple of examples of Starbucks many problems. Mrs. Jack Graham was portrayed as being merciful, yet she was not shown mercy in the least. Mrs. Jack Graham was one of the richest people in America, and wanted to distribute her wealth to the less fortunate people in society. Despite her wealth, she is forced to live as a bag lady, to protect herself from all the people she shows mercy to, who ironically would kill her in an instant. Mrs. Jack Graham ends up dying and all of her money ends up going to the government, exactly what she did not want. Vonnegut shows this to further point out that Mrs. Jack was not shown mercy at all, just as other merciful people in society often are not.Candide and Starbuck continue to be influenced by minor characters up to the end of the books, and continue to be optimistic, while both of them end up in their own form of confinement. Starbuck ends up in jail, and Candide ends up poor on a farm. The societies in Jailbird and Candide are the complete opposite of how the beatitudes say the will be. The things that the beatitudes say will help you to become blessed are the things that cause suffering in Candide and Jailbird.
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