Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Like Gargantua, Pantagruel has an elaborate introduction by Alcofribas, but it is less allusive and revealing because it is written earlier. Accordingly, this book has less unity and thematic integration. Yet it is, in the end, more important, since it lays the foundation of the series and characterizes Pantagruel and Panurge, who dominate the later books.
The structure of Pantagruel parallels that of Gargantua, although the two are absolutely different in detail and incident. The opening recounts the hero’s birth and upbringing. Both heroes are appropriately enormous; Rabelais devises ingenious techniques of feeding and clothing them. Finally seeking his own education, Pantagruel visits many of the leading universities, exposing outmoded educational methods. After exploring the libraries of Paris, he receives a letter from his father containing Gargantua’s prescription for education. Rabelais drops the ironic mask and gives advice that is more than sound: He suggests educational reforms at least a century before their time.
In Paris, he meets Panurge, the archetypal graduate student as social climber and sidekick. Together, the two expose a series of academic humbugs, in the process accumulating a gang of sympathizers. Hearing that the Dipsodes are overrunning Utopia, Pantagruel feels fated to establish order there. To do so, he designs a successful campaign of schoolboy ingenuity. At the end,...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
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