Impact Of French Revolution On Literature

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Literature has greatly changed throughout the years. The French Revolution has had a huge impact on literature today, whether it be the monarchy of that time, education, style of government, or the science/technology development. Each has had their own impact on how our literature has been shaped throughout the years. The greatest influence on Literature from the French Revolution would be the events. Without the events and hardships some writers would not have been able to write about their personal experiences or some experiences their family encountered. The French revolution is a very popular topic that not many people really know about. Many people overlook it because it is French and not English. It has had so many effects on both English literature and French literature. Louis married Marie Antoinette in 1770, when Louis XVI was fifteen and Marie was fourteen (“The Children”). Marie Antoinette was no different from her husband; she too ignored France’s economic issues (“The Children”). Marie spent a lot of money on fancy parties and high class clothes even when the economy was struggling. Louis and Marie had four children, Marie Therese Antoinette, Louis-Joseph, Louis-Charles, and Sophie Beatrix (“The Children”). Sophie Beatrix died before she turned a year old, and Louis-Joseph died at age seven from tuberculosis (“The Children”). The French Revolution started in 1789 after the American Revolution ended (Banfield pg112). Louis XVI was the ruler at the time although he did not raise taxes in France he kept taking out large international loans. Which caused France to go into great debt. May 1789 Louis called a meeting of the Estates General to try to fix the debt issues(“The Children”). The Estates General is made up of three estates, the clergy, the nobility and the Third Estate, which is a majority of common or poor people. The country went bankrupt by the early 1790s (“The Children”). King Louis XVI began to get very flustered and did not communicate with the people; this caused a lot of friction between the people and King Louis (“The Children”). He started to do more recreational things like hunting or locksmithing, instead of trying to fix France’s problems. After Louis-Joseph passed away, Louis XVI, Marie, Marie Therese and Louis-Charles all where forced to move from the palace of Versailles to Tuileries for safety (“The Children”). They were required twenty-four hour surveillance in hopes of stopping attacks on Louis’s life (“The Children”). After a while at Tuileries the royal family was tired of constantly having people watching them, so they decided to escape. They tried to leave the country and got ot the Belgium border before being caught (“The Children”). The French government then threw them in the tower of Temple, a once luxurious home turned into a cruel prison (“The Children”). In 1793 Louis XVI was executed by a guillotine (“Louis XVI Biography”). Louis-Charles then went to a much more harsh prison than the Tower of Temple, he was separated from the rest of his family (“Louis XVI Biography”). This is much like Charles Darnay in Tale of Two Cities, Charles is sent to prison while his wife Lucie and daughter “little” Lucie stay in a place nearby with Jerry Cruncher and Mr. Jarvis Lorry. Louis-Charles died in 1795 at the age of ten. He had been in solitary confinement for over four years (“The Children”).

During the revolution approximately 40,000 men and women were executed. At the beginning of the revolution most people were hanged, but they did not want to kill them instantly. Instead of just breaking the neck they wanted them to struggle and die of asphyxiation. This continued until 1789 when Joseph Guillotin came up with the guillotine, this was a quick way of execution (Lynn). Maximilien Robespierre was a main enforcer of the guillotine. Robespierre and the Public Safety committee enforced laws that declared that it does not matter what your crime was you must be executed by guillotine (Lynn). Execution by guillotine was very common in Charles Dickens book A Tale of Two Cities. “fifteen prisoners were put to the bar before Charles Darnay’s name was called. All the fifteen were condemned, and the trials of the whole occupies an hour and a half (Dickens pg 348).” Fifteen people executed by guillotine in an hour and a half. The guillotine had many nicknames during the French revolution, and not just the ones Charles Dickens wrote about. “At first the machine was called the louisette or louison, after its inventor, French surgeon and physiologist Antoine Louis, but later it became known as la guillotine. Later the French underworld dubbed it “the widow”(“Guillotine”).” Some of the ones Charles Dickens had were a bit more humorous. “The figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine. It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning gray, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn of breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied” (Dickens pg 312). During that time the revolutionist believed in the guillotine much like some believe in God. Therefore the Guillotine became the Cross for their belief system. These humorous comments were much needed after this dark period of time. Dickens tried to lighten the mood of the country, even though something terrible has happened, they beat it and needed a fresh happier start.

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Charles Dickens used many references to the French Revolution in his book Tale of Two Cities Dickens also uses the real time periods. Such as, the Revolution lasted about ten years in A Tale of Two Cities and in real life it also lasted ten years. The events are also in order and often have many similarities. Without the French revolution Dickens would have not been able to use real experiences in his book. Not only the number of people executed by guillotine but also The Storming of the Bastille. The Storming of Bastille took place on July fourteenth 1789, this was an attack on the prison led by the Third Estate. The Storming of Bastille was the start of the French Revolution. During the Storming of Bastille seven prisoners were set free. Charles Dickens also uses the reference of seven prisoners being set free. During the Storming of Bastille the Third Estate wanted Governor de Launay to release the prisoners, when he refused they chopped his head off, put it on a stick and paraded it thought the town (Nelson). In Tale of Two Cities, once the governor of the Bastille is shot Madame Defarge cuts his head off and shoves grass in it. The education had a great impact on the revolution and on literature. They had just switched their main language over from Latin to French. The French education needed to change in some way. The Catholic church had a huge influence on the education system. The church was required to educate the children, there was no actually school houses (“Protestant”). When the teachers taught it was to individual students. The class did not learn together you got to work at your own learning pace (“Protestant”). Each day started and ended with a prayer, much like church does. Not many went on to college there was around thirty fully developed colleges but not many had full time teachers (“Protestant”). The ones that did go to college where the famous playwrights or authors.

Some of the famous authors were Charles Dickens, Olympe de Gouge, Jean-Paul Marat, and André Chénier. All of these authors used some sort of reference to the French Revolution, whether it be about the guillotine, the Revolutionist, the time period or the events. Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England on February seventh 1812 (Collins). In 1824 Charles’s family went bankrupt and his father was sent to prison for debt, meanwhile Charles was sent to work in a factory at the age of twelve (Collins). “Also, the images of the prison and of the lost, oppressed or bewildered child recur in many novels (Collins).” So Charles used many of his descriptions of poverty and prisons from his real life experiences. After his father was released from prison he wanted to return to school, but his mother had other plans (Collins). She wanted him to stay at the factory to bring more money into the household (Collins). Charles refused and returned to school (Collins). At age fifteen he had to quit school and become a store clerk, then a newspaper reporter. This job led him to his love for writing. Olympe de Gouge was a famous playwright. She was born May seventh 1748 (Kuiper). Olympe de Gouge otherwise known as Marie was very involved in women’s issues during the French Revolution (Kuiper). She fought to improve divorce, maternity hospitals, rights for orphaned children and unmarried mothers (Kuiper). In 1791 Marie published Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne, a pamphlet that stated all womens rights and how they should be equal to mens writes. She fought for adopted children to have the same rights as those veritably born into the family (Kuiper). Which at this time was much needed. Women were treated more like property than people, they could not vote and had no role in literature at the time. If a womens part was needed in a play a young boy would play the part instead. Jean-Paul Marat was not an author or playwright but a doctor/journalist. He was born in Switzerland in 1743, around age thirteen he became interested in medicine and traveled to Paris to study (Llewellyn). “By the 1770s Marat had also taken an interest in Enlightenment philosophies, so he began writing works of political theory. He also spent several years in Holland, Scotland and England, where he studied the British political system and wrote prolifically on both politics and medicine” (Llewellyn). During the French Revolution he was an essay writer for the Third Estate. Early 1780s Marat began to write essays attacking the king and his nobility, pretty much anyone high class who had money. This lead to him being arrested frequently for voicing his opinion. July thirteenth Marat was murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday (Llewellyn). She first told him a lost of names, much like a hit list then stabbed him with a kitchen knife (Collins). Thousands of people attended Jean-Paul Marat’s funeral, and his assiasign would not go without punishment. On July seventeenth Charlotte Corday was executed by guillotine (Llewellyn). Charlotte Corday is very much like Madame Defarge in Tale of Two Cities. Both make a list of people the revolutionists want to be executed, also both held revolutionist meetings in their house or place of business.

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