Jacques the Fatalist and His Master

by Denis Diderot
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What would be a close-reading analysis of the excerpt from Jacques the Fatalist and His Master that starts with “But if there’s hardly anything we say that’s heard the way it’s intended, there’s far worse: it follows that there’s hardly anything we do that is judged by what we had in mind when we did it” and ends with “I don't know where your gospel is, sir, but mine is written on high. Each one of us takes insults and blessings in our own way. And it’s more than likely that we don’t even judge these things the same way at two different moments of our lives”?

A close reading of this excerpt from Jacques the Fatalist and His Master might analyze how Monsieur Le Pelletier’s plight reflects Jacques’s belief that intentions and actions can be judged from an array of angles.

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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.

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