Category Archives: A Quest to Picaresque: Overcoming Obstacles with a Desire

A Quest to Picaresque: Overcoming Obstacles with a Desire

Why teach a Picaresque?

I decided to integrate the picaresque genre with the theme overcoming obstacles with a desire, because the classic picaresque protagonist, or hero, experiences a journey filled with obstacles that prevent him from moving closer to his deepest desire. The picaresque novel is essential to teach adolescent readers because it is a classic genre still relevant in modern media and contemporary fiction. The picaresque narrative can be identified mostly in adapted films. From my personal experience, I do understand the context of a classic text may be difficult for adolescent readers to connect with. For this reason, I included three picaresque novels written by authors from different countries. Specifically, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain an American author, Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi an Italian author, and The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes a spanish novella. Looking back to myself as an adolescent reader, I recall expecting a text to relate to my life. Keeping this in mind, I matched Collodi’s original version of Pinocchio with the Walt Disney adaptation. Adolescent readers will have the opportunity to analyze a familiar adapted film and compare it to the text.

What is a Picaresque?

“It tells the life of a knave or picaroon who is the servant of several masters. Through his experience this picaroon satirizes the society in which he lives in,” according to the fourth edition Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (Cuddon 666).

What is Satire?

A literary art form that ridicules human folly or vice hopping to correct it.

Commonly used satirical devices:

Hyperbole: a gross overstatement; an extreme exaggeration.

Invective: Speech that may be directed toward an individual, cause, idea, or system that attacks or denounces it.

Inversion: A reversal of order, form, or another relationship.

Irony: A literary device where what is stated is often the opposite of what is meant.

Sarcasm: Sneering disapproval often expressed as praise; i.e., someone who falls may be praised for his gracefulness.

Understatement: Speech that deliberately minimizes a situation, often for comic effect.

read write think

Picaresque Texts:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Umberto Eco, Geoffery Brock, and Rebecca West

The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes: His Fortunes and Adversities by W.S. Merwin Translated by Juan Goytisolo

Sullivan’s Travels. Dir. Preston Sturges. Paramount Pictures, 1941. DVD.