France in 18th Century by Jacques the Fatalist


The 18th century in Europe was characterized by an Age of Enlightenment, particularly in France, where rigorous attacks sprang against the old styles of thinking. This was a period when experimentation and intellectual curiosity were at their highest level as people struggled to get civilized. They were motivated by a belief that human beings were capable of reasoning and finding solutions that would unlock the mysteries connected to nature and society at large.

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One leading manifestation was a confident belief that civilization was possible through definite progress. During this time, the French were interested and motivated to improve the general conditions in which they lived through fighting for equality, freedom, and tolerance. This was portrayed by various French thinkers and writers, who devoted their attention to more useful thoughts rather than immaterial thoughts and speculations.

One piece of literature that portrayed 18th century France history is Jacques the Fatalist. This is a renowned novel authored by Denis Diderot between 1765 and 1780. The theme of the novel centers on the relationship between Valet Jacques and his master, whose name has not been disclosed. Jacques and his master embark on a journey traveling across the country. When boredom starts to engulf the two, the master forces Jacques to narrate the story of his loves. Jacques acts as if he is truly free in a world of dizzy unpredictability and variety.

However, the story is numerously interrupted as other characters emerge and disappear (Diderot, Hall, & Henry, 1986). Other characters tell their stories but are interrupted too. Generally, the novel is a form of a dialogue between the narrator and the reader, and the narration is continually interrupted when a series of questions are posed by the reader to the narrator. Overall, Diderot’s novel is seen to be a fascinating inquiry into the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment and philosophies, a time described by the persecution and liberty difficulties of the French people.

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Jacques the Fatalist gives an elaborate description of French society in the 18th century. The book illustrates the problems that were most prevalent during that time including fatalism, freedom, and the relationship between the two characters. The nature and the connection between the human heart and head preoccupied many French thinkers of the time. The society described in the novel exemplifies what the Declaration of Rights of Man was trying to remedy; namely, the rot in the forms of fatalism, unequal opportunities, and unequal rights. In 18th century France, a series of events sprang across the country in what was considered similar to the American Revolution, where people rebelled in the fight for their rights and fair treatment. The outcomes of the French Revolution steered the systematization of moral rights into the laws governing France, and the eventual drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

According to Hunt (1996), the French revolution started in 1789 as a result of Enlightenment beliefs and principles. The French people were angered by the unfair and unequal taxation systems, privileges enjoyed by the members of the noble class, and royal dictatorship. The French were angry and felt that they were unfairly treated by their rulers. According to them, they were limited to certain freedoms and rights, in contrast to the members of the noble classes who enjoyed their full rights and freedoms at the expense of the poor. The citizens of Paris rebelled when King Louis XVI went to the extremes inducing unfair treatment to his subjects. They began executing members of the nobility.

When the rebellions seemed likely to alter the national peace, the National Assembly intervened and abolished the system of nobility privileges and adopted a constitutional monarchy instead, where all the citizens would have an equal representation and be subject to equal opportunities (Hunt, 1996). Later, the French Legislators drafted a Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in the year 1789. This was regardless of the reality that the revolution was still ongoing. The French legislators also formulated the Marquis de Lafayette, which was anticipated to be a portion of a changeover from the monarchical rule to a sovereign government. Also, the rebellion appealed for enlightenment principles such as equal rights, opportunities, and sovereignty (Hunt, 1996).

After studying the characteristics of the society described by Jacques the Fatalist, it is evident that inequalities, freedom, and unfair treatment were so prevalent, and people did not enjoy their freedom as it was expected. The author describes 18th century France as dizzy with unpredictability and variety. As such, the people were not living according to their wishes. When the society in Jacques the Fatalist is compared to the 18th-century society during the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, similar conditions are depicted.

Hunt (2006), shows that all the members of the noble class were enjoying their rights while members of the lower classes were subjected to harsh inequalities and unfair treatment. Society was thus fighting for freedom and equality. Similarly, Diderot, Hall, and Henry (1986), in Jacques the Fatalist show that the French world in the 18th century was demystified and harbored a society that was subjected to oppression, injustice, and the problem of moral responsibility.


In conclusion, this work has reviewed the society described in Jacques the Fatalist. Society is seen as one subjected to inequalities, oppression, and injustices. This society is comparable to the French society during the Declaration of the Right of Man, which followed a series of revolutionary changes as people called for their rights. This was at the time when the French were subjected to unfair treatment from the noble class members and aristocrats. Therefore, society can be described as filled with uncertainties and unfairness, and the one which harbors rot in form of injustices and lack of freedom.

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