L’Ingenu by Voltaire The book L’Ingenu by Voltaire is bursting with corruption of the soul. Lying, manipulating, and bribery are the center of religion, politics, and social society. These issues are expressed very harshly by Voltaire in this book. Voltaire ties to enlighten the people of his day by shedding light on these issues and start a changing in the world. Along with religion, he focuses upon political, social, and cultural factors to describe how he feels about the 18th Century French society. Voltaire portrays religion as if it is something that he demands from other people.
Every religious leader seems to be trying to better themselves through the power they hold and manipulation. He uses the character of the Child of Nature and his simple, unpolluted outlook on the world to show the horrible deceit that runs amongst the people in our world. The story begins at a party, the Child of Nature being questioned by guests of the house. Eventually religion seeps into the room and conversation. The Child of Nature states, “I follow my own religion…as you do yours. ” (page 111 Voltaire). The guests are shocked and exclaim things like “Those Wretched English! .. I see that they didn’t even think of getting him baptized. ” or “How has it come about that Hurons are not Catholics? ” and so on (page 111 Voltaire). The French people decide immediately to baptize the Child of Nature despite his unwillingness. The Child of Nature, who happens to claim that he is a Huron, keeps reassuring the Prior and Mademoiselle de Kerkabon that in England, people are to believe whatever they want and they don’t have to be pressured into believing something specific or following a certain religion.
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The Prior and Mademoiselle de Kerkabon later realize that the Child of Nature is not in fact a Huron but one of them and actually a family member. The Child of Nature ends up being the Prior’s nephew. Once he is recognized by his uncle and everyone, he becomes a Christian finally, after being pressured into it. He then makes a remark that since he was a Christian now, he had to become circumcised (page 117 Voltaire). His belief that he must do whatever is mentioned in the Bible of what they did in those times is what he must do in order for himself to be considered a Christian. The initial “hoop” that he had to go through was confession.
The Child of Nature always carried the Book around in his pocket and he mentions that he was never able to find a single apostle that had ever gone to confession and he became very obstinate about it. However, the religious figures and his family tell him that they believe in “confess[ing] your sins one to another. ” (page 117 Voltaire). When the Child of Nature tries to follow this, it ends up causing more trouble in his already troubled situation. He finally gives way and confesses to the monk but then he demands that the monk and he must switch spots and the monk must confess to him since that was what the Book said.
He learns that in religion, the teachings are for students only and not for the teachers themselves. However, situations among the monk and the Child of Nature are worked out. While the set-up for the baptismal is taking place, the Prior and Mademoiselle de Kerkabon go searching for the Child of Nature but he is nowhere to be found and they get the suspicion that he may have returned to England because they overheard him talking about how great of a country it was. At last, Mademoiselle de Kerkabon and Mademoiselle de St. Yves are wandering around and find the Child of Nature in the river like the Book mentions.
He finally gets baptized after being explained how the baptismal works and that they don’t do it in the river. The Child of Nature falls in love with the lovely young Mademoiselle de St Yves who played the role of godmother in his baptismal. The people of France claim that it is an evil sin to marry your godmother, which enrages the Child of Nature, also known as Hercules. He lashes out towards them saying, “I saw nothing in the Book you gave me to say it was wrong… I notice everyday that innumerable things go on here which are not in your Book, and that nobody follows what it says” (page 125 Voltaire).
These few sentences are meant to shock the readers into realizing the dishonesty in our world, Voltaire is far from done from unearthing harsh realities. He mentions these few sentences to show that people that claim to be Christians or any other religion, don’t always follow what they are reading. A few years go by and many things happen, but we find Hercules unjustly thrown in prison and the lovely Mademoiselle de St Yves rushing to rescue him from his imprisonment. Finally, she is granted an audience with a royal official who has the authority to free her beloved.
However, she does not know that it was her beauty that accomplished this task for her. The papers are drawn up for the release of the Hercules, but they come at a hefty price ??? her virtue. Horrified she turns to a priest for guidance. The priest after hearing the situation tells her that she is technically unmarried so she “would not be committing adultery, a heinous sin… [also] actions are not entirely malicious or culpable when the intentions are pure” (page 168 Voltaire). This priest is trying to be socially correct and thus is being a hypocrite in everything he tells people that they should believe.
He told Mademoiselle de St. Yves to betray the man she loves and trade sex for his freedom, sadly this type of exchange is very common in our society. Voltaire uses a simple way of writing so that he can capture the attention of a very wide audience. He wanted his ideas to reach every person in France no matter how educated they were. Voltaire jumpstarted the revolution when he ripped the mask off of the issues in France, issues of corruption in their religion, government and social society.
His ideas were so similar to the ideas of other people but other people were just too scared to say anything so he mentions them through this book. He says what people are thinking and what they want to say. Voltaire’s ability of being able to relate to any sort of people is an amazing skill that he possesses because it’s hard to write a book that everybody can understand and still get the point across. His critique in this book is really good of the French society and what could have been the start or cause of the French Revolution. Used Resource: L’Ingenu by Voltaire