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"si La Logique Du Rð¹cit Du Conte Du Graal Est йtrange, C'est Que Chrð¹tien L'a Certainement Voulu Ainsi". Discuss

Essay by review  •  January 9, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,106 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,564 Views

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"Si la logique du rйcit du Conte du Graal est йtrange, c'est que Chrйtien l'a certainement voulu ainsi". Discuss

"Chrйtien portrays [Perceval] with sympathy and undimmed judgement...His main technique in this portrayal is incongruity, ranging from irony to broad comedy" and it is exactly this deliberate style that leads the story of the Conte du Graal to be so peculiar. Chrйtien composed his tale in order to puzzle the intended audience, endeavouring in one sense, to cause a feeling of 'wanting more' and this effect is further emphasised with the unfinished ending - whether intentional or not as it is transformed into a 'cliff-hanger', which still fascinates readers today. "Contrairement aux rйcits mythiques, les romans de Chrйtien de Troyes ne proposent plus de solutions, de rйponses, mais suscitent des questions" and these 'questions' are made a theme of, further contributing to the inevitable outcome of curiosity about the text and its peculiarity. As will be discussed, there are a number of aspects in the text, that prove to be odd, especially to a twelfth century audience and although not 'the norm' for literature of that age, it will be seen that this strangeness was quite consciously implemented by Chrйtien.

The title of the conte itself is ambiguous as it would have presented no reference to an audience of the time, however, as a first point of discussion the very nature of the protagonist Perceval is atypical. The very fact that Chrйtien chose to employ a hero, who is not only welsh but reliant on his mother and lacking a name is extraordinary, Lines 462-468 demonstrate Chrйtien drawing attention to Perceval's lack of social appropriation through his style of dress, also implying that his welsh origin implies a lack of refinement and sophistication - could this really be our hero? He has no recognition of social values and therefore knightly ones and one of his many 'identities' throughout the first half of the romance is "beau fils" - all in place of an appropriate name. He is negligent of conventions and refuses to take an interest in other people's states of mind. It would be just to state that a twelfth century audience would have been astonished with the presentation of Perceval as the person who is assumedly going to be the one to find 'the grail'. Accustomed to stories of chivalry and courtly love, a protagonist such as Perceval would have been astounding. However, despite these incongruities with our hero, it is clear that this attribution of characteristics sets Perceval apart from the crowd - his apparent absurdities make him fall short of any expectations and Chrйtien uses contrasts, among many techniques to display Perceval's ludicrousness. One of these is of course the entire parallel plot with Gauvain - a 'typical' hero of such a story but one whose adventures are never quite accomplished. Furthermore, the prologue begins with a description of a beautiful landscape, which is followed by the forceful noise of arriving knights. This creates the impression of "two sounds, two kinds of music we might say, two poles of human experience...it is the meeting of two incongruous worlds...nearly incomprehensible to each other..." highlighting Perceval's total lack of social awareness; "it is meant to give Perceval one virtue in particular: innocence" .

This innocence is added to with Perceval's constant misinterpretation of objects and instructions. Often, this is humorous in the nature of absurdity adding to the underlying premise of incongruity within the Conte du Graal. As the knights first approach Perceval's position in the forest and during his first encounter with them, he is confused as to whether they are angels or devils - at no point does he recognise them as knights. There is also the instance of "Perceval's reduction of the knightly lance and hauberk to the situation of hunting...[and] when he is unable to remove the armour of the Red Knight" . Perceval mistakes a tent for a church, a mistake, which would have been - and still is - utterly unbelievable and there are also instances where Perceval misconstrues advice, such as that of his mother and of Gornement. His mother instructs him for instance, to only kiss a lady if she is willing yet he does not follow this completely resulting in a rather disturbing incident with the damsel in the tent. His mother also teaches him to ask questions, associate with noble people to acquire good wisdom and ask for people's names - ironic when one considers that at this point, Perceval himself does not have a name. On the other hand, Gornement, presented as someone sensible and important, advises Perceval not to ask or talk too much as he will appear a peasant - an extremely unwelcome personal connotation. The themes of speaking and not speaking and of questions are large ones in the conte. Perceval asks absurd questions to the knights and he refuses to answer their questions, an extraordinary quality to be presented to the audience. In addition, when Perceval arrives at Arthur's court there is no greeting for him from the king, which would have been looked down upon. Perceval's confusion proves problematic when he reaches the Grail Castle but by making Perceval appear impressionable, Chrйtien is painting him out to be a child who is told what to do and who does not have the maturity with which to make its own decisions. Upon magically and incongruously guessing his name correctly sometime later in the romance, it is implied that Perceval has reached a level of maturity and can make his own choices. This technique of setting Perceval up to appear childlike with instances of miscomprehension and fingering the garments of the knights with pure fascination, have a larger significance in the conte as a whole. The strangeness of the hero seems to be an agenda of Chrйtien to portray the grail as being an item deserving a 'rite of passage' - a journey from innocence to maturity resulting in the Conte du Graal becoming a form of unfinished Bildungsroman. "The fact that [the conte] is unfinished robs us of a goal towards which the narrative can be seen to lead and converge...the emphasis on broader forms of incongruity in Perceval is...due to the character of its first hero: the stumbling of an ignorant naпf into society."

Other aspects of the strange rйcit deserving mention is that of the enhanced role of Perceval's mother adding to Perceval's strangeness and childlike status and furthermore the character of the Fisher King. Firstly, a king is not a typical fisherman and so the name in itself

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