Nationalism in Literature

A comparative analysis of the representation of theme of nationalism in Voltaire’s Candide and The Book of Ruth.

This paper identifies the mingling of bodies as an umbrella theme in two literary texts: Voltaire’s “Candide” and “The Book of Ruth.” It looks at how, in these texts, mingling occurs more specifically in sexual encounters, both voluntary and involuntary, in violent clashes and wars, and even in cannibalistic rituals, all of which appear to have related textual implications. It attempts to analyze the significance, literal and symbolic, of these acts as expressions of national strength and assertion, conquer, defeat, and as acts of nation-making and nation-breaking.
“In Candide, the mingling of bodies is a symbol of power and destruction. Significantly, a large proportion of the situations in which bodies mingle involve rape or cannibalism. Voltaire fills his representation of the world with warring groups, who constantly attempt to exert power over one another. Violent acts of mingling performed by members of these groups on the bodies of their enemies serve as a means of expressing control and domination over the national body. When the Bulgar soldier rapes Cun?gonde after destroying her father’s castle, his actions have the same effect as if he were driving a flag into the ground and claiming his territory. As she relates to Candide, while she is being raped she realizes that ?everything which had happened in my father’s castle was a mere matter of routine.”