David Koptcho Francois Rabelais/ Gargantua and Pantagruel
The story of Gargantua and Pantagruel is basically a satirical story of the french writer Francois Rabelais. Francois tells of the adventures of two giants, father and son, Gargantua and Pantagruel. They make fun of the vices and foolishness of the people and institutions of Rabelais’s time. His humor is at times so dark and his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church so telling that it is difficult to believe that for most of his life he was a priest. I believe that the sole intention of this work is to poke and dig at the people and intrest’s that Rabelais disliked, which you can tell by him bringing real people into the story. I don’t feel that there is any deep meaning to this work other than to express his dislikes for his world’s ideals. In the next few paragraphs I will try to pick apart the work of Francois Rabelais and express my ideas on the meaning of the work, Gargantua and Pantagruel.
The reading starts off with the education of a giant humanist, Gargantua. The word humanist used to describe the giant is a word or feeling of the authors dislike with the culture he lives among. Humanist people are ones that are devoted to the humanities, literary culture, they only focus on the world in which they live in, not the world of the supernatural, such as heaven. I believe this secular kind of ideals the French had during the renaissance bothered Rabelais to the point of exposing it and making fun of it in this work. I also feel this must be the case because of the author’s background of being in the church, he felt that people were more concerned with the material world rather than the worship of the lord. The chapter goes on to tell of Gargantua studying moral quatrains by foolish philosophers such as “ Maitre Blowhard Birdbrain”. Moral quatrains were actually part of the educational curriculum that was being studied in France at this time, something witch Rabelais was satirizing.
The next chapter, chapter 15, starts off by telling of Gargantua’s father not happy with the education that his son was getting. His father feels that his son, being perfect in everything, needed other teachers in which he could bloom in the area of humanity. After some brief stints with other teachers they finally agree on the great powerbrain to lead the giants education. They would travel to the great city of Paris where everything was going on. Paris at this time was the only place for high standing people to be, if you weren’t in Paris you were nothing but a peasant to the arrogant people of France.
The story than continues with the education of the giant. It tells the tail of what an upper class individual does while learning the way of becoming a humanist. While this process is taking place it tells us of the diet of exuberant upper class. Gargantua eats constantly the rich foods Paris has to offer, and indulges so heavy and frequent we can see that the author is showing how people of this status didn’t care about the lower class suffering. The great giant surely lives like a king in this story drinking wine, playing games and sitting around talking about how smart and great he is. Obviously this an attempt to further insult the upper class’s way of life.
The church finally enters the story with Gargantua trying to repay a monk who helped him and his father in the war against the Picrochole. The giant offers him prestigious positions in a couple of different towns, the monk only answers by saying if I wanted those positions I could have them anytime I wanted. Rabelais is showing the corrupt power of the church and how it can attain anything it really wanted. It goes on to tell us of how big and luxurious this place is that the church has made for itself. The Abbey of desire was filled with everything a paradise is supposed to have. This is another attempt to show how the church was living high on the hog while the common man was suffering below. The author points out how the church bends the rules to their advantage by the items the monk drew up for the abbey. It also goes on to tell about the fashion of the day there and how silly it really was.
After all this Gargantua begat his son on his wife, Pantagruel. The childbirth of this mammoth takes the life of his mother. The story to me reflects the importance of women at this time because of only mentioning the death of his mother once. There is not even the slightest care that she died by her husband or anyone else, I feel this points out how important women were in French society, not very. After the birth of Pantagruel he is sent to Paris like his father to educate himself, where he receives a letter from Gargantua. In this letter Rabelias gets his point across of the view of the intellectual elite towards culture, and education. He goes on to explain what was going on in these fields during the renaissance.
As the story continues Pantagruel and his teacher, Panurge, are approached by an Englishman seeking knowledge. They agree to sort out some of the mysteries of the world at a debate in the morning. Panurge and the Englishman communicate by only gestures and not words. Rabelais has the two characters foolishly communicate by sticking their fingers in their ass, and pissing vinegar. The author once again is blasting the foolishness of the education of the time. I feel he use’s these expressions to demean the educated by making even their language seem stupid and useless. After the debate is over the characters feel like they have accomplished a great deal, when as a reader you feel as though you have just wasted five minutes of your life listening to them prove nothing, a point well taken from the pen of the author.
As Pantagruel enters into the land of Dipsodes, a group of people called the Almyrods start a war with him. As the war starts, the narrator jumps into the story to hide in Pantagruels mouth. The narrator while walking in the mouth of the giant meets an old man planting cabbage. This is a very important point of the story of the lower class. The old man is asked why is he doing such a stupid thing. The old man answers that we can’t all be rich, I have to do this to make a living. This is a good point how Rabelais made the giant (the upper class) and the old man in his great big mouth. This to me symbolizes how big and important the upper class was compared to a small farmer. Eventually the narrator crawls out of the giant’s mouth and they confront each other. The giant asks where did you *censored* while inside of my mouth. And with his final dig of the story he answers, “In your throat, sir”.
After reading the story I feel the meaning is only to express the authors dislike for French society. The story attempts to dissect and embarrass the upper class of the society. Rabelais seems to cover all the bases by including his thoughts on the church, education, and French fashion. He goes about insulting these categories with such care and passion it gets his point across with dark humor. I feel that the author definitely accomplished everything he wanted with Gargantua and Pantagruel.