A close reading of this excerpt from Denis Diderot’s novel Jacques the Fatalist and His Master could analyze the idea of competing intentions and varying interpretations in the context of Monsieur Le Pelletier’s plight.
Much of the excerpt focuses on Le Pelletier. A barber tells how Le Pelletier kept asking Monsieur Aubertot to give some money to the poor. Eventually, Aubertot became so irritated by Le Pelletier’s pleadings that he slapped him.
This slap produces different perspectives. A lot of people admired Le Pelletier for his meekness. One person, a soldier, did not. The soldier thinks Le Pelletier should have killed Aubertot for dishonoring Le Pelletier. It’s pointed out that the soldier thinks this because he’s a military man and not a “Christian man.”
The tale illuminates Jaques’s belief that each person “takes insults and blessings in [their] own way.” The soldier would have reacted one way to the slap, and the person begging on behalf of the poor reacts an opposite way.
Circling back to the start of the excerpt, think about how the tale reflects Jacques’s belief that what people do is rarely judged by what people had in mind when they did them.
When Le Pelletier set out to ask Aubertot for money, he probably did not intend to annoy him to such an extent. Alas, that’s how Aubertot judged Le Pelletier’s behavior. He didn’t judge him as a person trying to help out the less fortunate. He judged him as a nuisance.