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Literature / The Ingenue

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L'ingenu, or The Ingenue, is a book written by Voltaire which tells the story of a Frenchman named "Child of Nature" who had been raised by Hurons and who has returned to his fatherland, in the French province of Brittany, among the abbot de Kerkabon and his sister, both relatives of his deceased parents.

After arriving he is converted to Catholicism under the name of Hercule de Kerkabon, saves the province from British invaders and goes to Versailles to receive his rewards as a war hero.

Once there, he gets a glimpse of the corruption of the realm and befalls victim of it.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Abacaba, the Ingenue's former girlfriend and friend of her wet-nurse, was a great huntress.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The Bailiff want to force Miss de Saint-Yves to marry his son. He fails.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Gordon's Jansenist beliefs are challenged when the Child of Nature asks him if his teaching about efficacious gracenote  don't make him the author of sin.
  • The Atoner: Saint-Pouange gave the Ingenu a military employ after indirectly causing Saint-Yves's death.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Abacaba ended up eaten by a bear.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted and Subverted Trope: although there is Calvinist huguenots and a Jansenist is featured, the Church and the State are making their uymost to stamp any non-Catholic in France.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The French royal court is depicted as this.
    • A Versailles devot woman advised Saint-Yves to use her natural gifts to get the Ingenue's freedom.
  • Death by Despair: Saint-Yves died from the shame she had after her intercourse with Saint-Pouange.
  • Despair Event Horizon: when the unnamed courtesan bought back the expensive diamond earrings Saint-Pouange gave to Saint-Yves.
  • Dirty Old Monk: When the Prior de Kerkabon went to Versailles to enquire on his nephrew's fate by meeting important prelates the bishop of Saint-Malo recommendated them to, the motive both of them are unable to speak to him is understood they were discussing about the Church and theology.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Bailiff is not called otherwise in the book.
  • The Exile: The Huguenots the hero meets in Saumur have been forced to leave France because Calvinism is now unlawful to practize.
  • The Fundamentalist: In the "litteral" sense, rejects any religious practice not endorsed by his interpretation of each Biblical verse; for example he asks for a circumcision and to be baptized in a water stream.
  • The Heretic
    • The Ingenue is accused of being a Jansenist in a letter sent by the Bailiff.
    • Gordon, the Ingenue's cellmate, was held in the Bastille for two years for being a Jansenist.
      • Jansenists are said to the Prior de Kerkabon coming to Versailles to be even worse than the Huguenots and the atheists by a Jansenist.
  • Illegal Religion: In 1689, the Protestant religion had been banned in France thanks to the Edict of Fontainebleau.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery: Miss de Saint-Yves.
  • The Lost Lenore: The Ingenue nevet forgots Saint-Yves intul his last breath.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The "Child of Nature" must see subordinates of subordinates so as to be able to speak to Louvois, the Minister for War.
  • The Old Convict: Gordon is an old Jansenist hold in the Bastille.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The Child of Nature is given, by the Hurons who raised him, a necklace containing the portraits of his dead parents, killed by the natives during an expedition in 1669.
  • Parental Incest: In the spiritual sense: because Miss de Saint-Yves is the Huron's godmother, any marriage between them is considered as incestuous by the Catholic Church; this fact is one of the drivers for the story, because the Huron will go to Paris so as to ask for a papal dispensation.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Gordon was the teacher of his cellmate the Ingenue.
  • Runaway Bride: Miss de Saint-Yves when she fled her wedding to the Bailiff's son to go to Versailles.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum
    • Miss de Saint-Yves is subjected to this from Saint-Pouange so as to free the hero.
    • Subverted Trope After sending a letter to Saint-Pouange to ask him to free Gordon and getting another invitation to "eat," she presents the letter of liberation to the Bastille warden and doesn't go to the "dinner".
  • Sinister Minister: The Jesuit Tout-a-Tousnote  is shown saying to Miss de Saint-Yves Saint-Pouange's proposition are immoral, before cooking excuses after learning from where these propositions came.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Miss de Saint-Yves.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Each of the characters' futures are described in the end of the story; the Ingenu became a military officer thanks to Louvois ald lived near Gordon, who got church benefits and totally forgot his Jansenism, the abbot and the m de Saint-Yves got also church benefits, the Versailles devote got to keep the diamond earings and, lastly, Tout-a-Tous got sweets and books.
  • Women Prefer Strong Men: The Ingenue won Abacaba's heart after he chased down an Alongquin who stole one hare she killed.

Alternative Title(s): L Ingenu


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