The book Gargantua and Pantagruel was written by Francois Rabelais to show his disgust for the educational systems in his era. The two main characters of the book, Gargantua and Pantagruel, are two giant creatures living in the medieval era that perform various comical stunts. These stunts are an observation of the medieval way of life. Also, Rabelais is able to use these stunts to transcend some of his ideas of humanism to the reader. The specific problem defined by Rabelais is, rote memorization rather than analysis.
Rabelais is able to use humor to translate his thoughts about the current education system. By reviewing the use of satire throughout the book and the underlying messages, it will be obvious that Rabelais feels that there is a lack of analysis in his times. There are several accounts in the book where memorization is favored and is used over actual analyzation. This is mainly seen by the schoolmasters and the sophisters throughout the book. Memorization is not how Rabelais believed the intellectual individuals in society to act.
He was a strong believe in the understanding of knowledge, which he felt was how a person should learn. For example, Gargantua is given “ a sophister-doctor, called Master Tubl Holoferns, who taught him his ABC so well that he could say it by heart backwards “( 1. XIV) This master was focused on memorization rather then analysis, he would force Gargantua to memorize text from the era’s famous authors “… read unto him the book de modis signficandim with commentaries of Hurtbise, of Fasquin, of Tropdieux, of Gualhaut, of John Calf, of Billonio, of Berlingunandus and a rabble of others “(1. XIV) .
Gargantua never learns any of the material he is taught from his teacher, he is only able to memorize it, causing him to be unable to understand the world. Another problem with the education stated by Rabelais was the lack of determination to gain more knowledge. Gargantua’s father Grangousier sees that his son is not becoming any more knowledgeable “At the last his father perceived that indeed he studied hard, and that although he spent all his time in it, he did nevertheless profit nothing. (1. XV) Grangousier is able to see that the current education is focusing on memorization, and he criticizes his son’s teachers “… e found that it were better for him to learn nothing at all than to be taught such-like books, under such schoolmasters; because their knowledge was nothing but brutishness, and their wisdom but blunt foppish toys, serving only to bastardize good and noble sprits, and to corrupt all the flower of youth. “(1. XV) Gargantua is given a new teacher Ponocrates, who is quickly able to see “…
Gargantua’s vicious manner of living, he resolved to bring him up in another kind: but for a while he bore with him, considering that nature cannot endure a sudden change, without great violence”(1. XXIII). Ponocrates knows the fact Gargantua had no interest to learn and that sudden changes should not be made. Gargantua benefits greatly from Ponocrates, and starts to take interest into his studies ”… with all his heart submitted his study to the discretion of Ponocrates” (1. XXI). Rabelais uses Ponocrates to point out the obvious flaws in the current educational system, other than memorization. Although there seems to be many problems with the educational system, Rabelais supports the idea that application of knowledge is far greater than memorization.
Throughout the book Rabelais satirizes both the renaissance thinkers and the medieval era, proving that to the extreme both are ineffective. Rabelais is an advocate of a humanistic approach and he uses Ponocrates to translate these thoughts and ideas to the reader “… he might understand by what means, in so long time, his old masters had made him so sottish and ignorant” (1. XXI). The old masters that Ponocrates criticizes are the masters of the renaissance and medieval era. As a humanist Rabelais is more concerned with human values, with witch he was able to show by Ponocrates. Ponocrates was of opinion that they should make this fair orator drink again; and seeing he had showed them more pastime, and made them laugh more than a natural soul could have done (1. XX). The criticisms made by Rabelais are an accurate way to portray the flaws in education in the times. Rabelais satirism of memorization, is a slur for the medieval thinkers. He continues to target this era throughout the book how. Once a humanistic approach is added to the book, Gargantua starts to become wiser. Rabelais believed that humanistic approach would be more suited for understanding the world.
Gargantua and Pantagruel uses satire to criticize the current educational system in his time period. People of the era tended to memorize facts rather than to attempt to learn and understand the world. Rabelais was a humanist who believed that the current education system was not working and there was a lack of intellect in the world. Rabelais lived in a time where knowledge was power, and he felt that the current educational system should not force students to memorize, but to study the world and be a well-rounded person.