Love in Candide and The Thirteenth Night
Voltaire’s Candide and Higuchi Ichiyo’s The Thirteenth Night are two stories which share unique perspectives of love. Both stories feature a central character conflicted by aspects of loss and love, whether they be a lost love who needs to be recovered and/or, more simply, the loss of love. The compelling aspects of their comparison exist in the transformation each character undergoes throughout the course of their story. The experiences of the lead characters in each novella provide critical insight to many themes that dominated the period like honor, tradition, journey, satire and the regard of women. In both instances the love they have at the end of their stories outweighs the other factors of their life.
Love is ever present throughout Voltaire’s Candide and resides in many forms throughout the novella. There is the sexual attraction Candide feels for Cunegonde, the differing respect and admiration Candide has for Pangloss and Martin, and the appreciation of the Farmer’s lifestyle – all are examples of co-existing embodiments of love that construct the character of Candide, and others, from the beginning to end of the story. The reasons for his love for each person differ and change, in most cases, throughout the entirety of the novel and part of that can be attributed to Voltaire’s desire to maintain a sense of doubling and/or mimic a/the human condition in an attempt to satirize it.
Candide is hard up for Cunegonde. She is his Juliet, his Una, his Isolde, and probably most accurately his Ophelia. At the start of the story he is infatuated with just the sight of her, Voltaire writes, “Candide listened carefully and believed without hesitation; for he was of the view that Miss Cunegonde was extremely beautiful, though he never summoned up the courage to tell her so” (Voltaire, Chapter One). Soon enough the two of them were sharing moments and a not-so-secret kiss that would change everything and ignite the story: “Their lips met; their eyes shone; their knees trembled; their hands strayed” (Voltaire, Chapter One). The stringing together of these three word thoughts are at the emotional core of Candide throughout the course of the piece. They are his modus operandi as he tries to derive meaning in worlds where he has lost Cunegonde, miraculously gets her back and sub-sequentially loses her again. His love, or carnal passion, for her acts as a tether throughout all the conversations with Panglass or Martin about various philosophies regarding existence.
Before moving on, there is another notable aspect to Candide’s romantic love that needs to be identified in order to gain appreciation for Voltaire’s usage of different types of love as a means justifying motivation and character development. David Wootton talks at length about the duality of Voltaire’s Candide. Wootton writes: “On the one hand they appear to be fundamental and inescapable. But on the other, each pairing proves to be misleading. Neither the optimist nor the pessimist can forsee a happy ending” (Wootton, “Art and Life”). Wootton would continue to point out that while sexual attraction existed at the start of the novel, it is nowhere to be found once everyone is together at the end. The imperative question is how does Candide’s method of operation change when his sexual attraction towards Cunegonde no longer fuels his love for her? It takes the form through honor.
When Candide rescues Cunegonde and the old woman from the ruler of Transylvania he was rather surprised with how the effects of the time passed took their toll on Cunegonde: Upon “seeing his beautiful Cunegonde weather-beaten, her eyes bloodshot, her throat wizened, her cheeks lined, her arms red and chapped, was horror-struck and feel back three paces; then he advanced again in good order” (Voltaire, Chapter 29). Candide was no longer sexually attracted to Cunegonde but he could not deny her after the journey he had taken to get to her. It would have done disservice to all the actions he had taken to get to her and it would have tarnished the memories of the love he and Cunegonde had grown throughout the earlier parts of the story. In short, he felt like he was bound by honor to her and the actions of the people who helped him get to her. He says the following to Cacambo upon hearing his description of her, “I am an honorable man, and my duty is to love her always” (Voltaire, Chapter 27).
Candide’s romantic love towards Cunegonde isn’t the only type of love within Voltaire’s Candide: there are also examples of fraternal love and ideological appreciation. For instance, Candide has a very strong bond with Pangloss. He is his teacher, his confidant and his sidekick. Their relationship screams comparisons to Socrates and Plato or Shakespeare and his Fair Youth. If Cunegonde represents a base component of Candide then Pangloss and Martin are definitely composites of dueling philosophically motivated beliefs of optimism (Pangloss) and pessimism (Martin). Throughout the course of action there are times when he feels lost without them and times when he relishes in their joined presence, continuing the duality trend and establishing the fact that the both of them are needed for his harmonious existence. While he may not agree with either one all of the time, the fact that he keeps them in his company shows a love for them even when they decide to head the advice given to them by the Turk, “I presume that, as a general principle, people who involve themselves in politics sometimes die miserably, and deserve to do so; but I never find out what is going on Constantinople. I am content to send the fruits of the land I cultivate there for sale” (Voltaire, Chapter 30).
For everything Candide is in regards to journey, honor and sexual desire as it pertains to love, Ichiyō Higuchi’s The Thirteenth Night attempts a similar discovery by looking at love through lenses of tradition and feminism and attempts to derive meaning from how the lead character, Oseki, eventually rationalizes the various aspects of her loss of love for her husband.
The reader is confronted with an abnormality from the first word of The Thirteenth Night. By starting off the piece by saying “Ordinarily” the reader is informed that we are being thrust into a situation that is not ordinary for the characters of story. That plays directly into the themes of tradition and feminism and how they are influenced by her situation. Oseki finds herself in a situation that is new to her. She has been pushed to the brink in her marriage and is openly considering leaving her husband Isamu – valuing her personal identity more than that of her obligation to her family. Much of Oseki’s situation exists on a spectrum, with the love for her tradition pulling her one way and her feminist desire the other.
Clearly unhappy, factors wrapped in her tradition are the only things that give her pause when venturing into her parent’s household. She considered how it would affect her son, her parents and her brother – all people she loves “For a moment, she felt the urge to go back without saying anything. … Would be swept away by her selfishness and her caprice” (Higuchi, section one). If she were to continue on she would be at risk of endangering everything. The love within her was battling each other.
With Oseki’s passionate love for Isamu dead the only thing that keeps her with him is the aforementioned factors that are wrapped in tradition. Her love for herself, or her early feminist views, are urging her to leave him – her push factor: “Perhaps she should go back home to her husband. No! She couldn’t. He was inhuman, and she trembled at the thought of him and reeled against the lattice at the gate” (Higuchi, section one).
Oseki goes to her parents out of tradition. The introduction to this text, an essay by Heather Jurva titled, “Art from necessity: Higuchi Ichiyo and The Thirteenth Night”, explains the system that has made it so Oseki can’t just leave her husband, “Oseki would need to win her father’s approval accompanied by a letter of permission before she could divorce her husband” (Jurva). And, as she explains earlier in her essay, it puts the situation, and maybe the father’s advice, into perspective, “as Oseki enlightens her father to her situation he, in turm, enlightens her to her inescapable duty.” The fact that she no longer loved her husband or wanted to find some sort of self-love didn’t matter. Her love for her family was the overwhelming factor she had to which she had to abide” (Jurva).
In both of these texts, Candide and The Thirteenth Night, love does some very good things – but the benefits differ between the individual and the group. In Candide love drives the journey. It may be overly optimistic but it is much like Pangloss’ speech at the end of the story. He says “All events are linked together in this, the best of all possible worlds; for after all, if you had not been driven out of a beautiful castle … because you loved Miss Cunegonde … you would not be sitting here eating roasted pine nuts and pistachios” (Voltaire, chapter 30). The same cannot be said for Oseki in The Thirteenth Night. The fact that she no longer loves Isamu is the impetus for this story. Her ultimate decision doesn’t exist in her personal wants, like Candide, but how her situation will affect her family. Her love for them outweighed her love for herself.
A similarity in the text is the course of love both relationships take. Both couples meet, fall in love, and both couples fall out of the passionate love that was once in their relationships. The difference is that the cast in Candide finds interpersonal solace in working or tending their land while Oseki will be forced to go, maintain her home and be subject to the wrath of Isamu whenever he periodically comes home. It could be said that both stay in their relationships because of honor: Candide, the honor of the love he once felt for her and then Oseki, the honor of her family.
Throughout the course of the two stories the reader learns about the ways tradition, honor and a person’s individual journey can impact the love someone can feel for their significant other, their friends or their family. In both instances the love they have at the end of their stories outweighs the other factors of their life. While the respective situations they are in at the end may not be fair to either character’s sense of self or the highs either character had during the course of their life, the common thread between the two stories is that there is some form of love in their life. It may not be the hot passionate love of young love or the warm stability of a compassionate partner but there is love in both character’s lives. The intent of reading these stories together is to illustrate the value of welcoming the love that you have in your life and not pursuing things that are not there.
Voltaire. “Candide” Modern World Literature. 1st edition. Trans. David Wootton. Soomo Publishing. 5/27/14. Web.
Wootton, David. “The best of all possible worlds” Modern World Literature. 1st edition. Soomo Publishing. 5/27/14. Web.
Ichiyō, Higuchi. “The Thirteenth Night.” Modern World Literature. 1st edition. Soomo Publishing. 5/27/14. Web.
Jurva, Heather. “Art from necessity: Higuchi Ichiyo and The Thirteenth Night” Modern World Literature. 1st edition. Soomo Publishing. 5/27/14. Web.