Doonesbury and Marat

2012 David Maratdoonesbury and marat db130421
This article picks up where the discussion on Go Comics and other sites left off: with an informed linkage to the revolutionary original.

Trudeau’s cartoon strip memorializes his hero just as David did with his 1793 portrait. Subtle differences reveal a less glorious message however: where David put an enigmatic smile on Marat’s death mask to reveal his serenity and wisdom, Trudeau’s hero Razil is portrayed with the gaping stupor of an idiot. Like Razil, Marat wrote quickly, did little research to back up his views, and subsequently few if any of his writings are worthy of reading today. The only reason Marat lives on is David’s masterful portrait and its mysterious aura. Razil will not fare so well; the dopey expression Trudeau inscribed on his face says it all.

3 thoughts on “Doonesbury and Marat

  1. While you’re correct that Marat wrote quickly and did insufficient research – and, as a result, he was frequently wrong – the claim that he only lives on because of David’s painting is inaccurate. Marat played a major role in the Revolution until his death, and his criticisms of politicians frequently helped lead to their downfalls (Lafayette and the Girondins in particular). His move that the vote for the king’s fate be individual and public played a huge factor in how the trial played out; and on 2 June 1793 he was the most powerful man in all of France. His role did decline after that,due to his health, but there’s no guarantee he would not have gotten healthy after that and resumed his role. The Year II would have looked very different with Marat alive, with less of a role for Hebert, certainly, but in all likelihood a very different role for Robespierre as well.

  2. Good point, Noah. It is true that Marat lives on today (see my postings about Vik Muniz and Sebastião; oh, that reference was inspired by David. Hmm.). And it is possible that Marat may have recovered from his disease and led a distinguished career as a statesman and journalist after the summer of 1793. But I wonder how many people actually read and profit from his writings today? I have as high a tolerance for revolutionary ephemera as anybody, and even I find L’ami du people a bit trying…
    What are you working on? Care to share a posting of your own? This blog is open; always curious to know what’s going on in the world of revolutionary studies.

  3. I actually like reading l’Ami du peuple, but agreed – it’s not something that people would profit from reading today, for anything other than understanding the Revolution, or the evolution of journalism. It’s got a monotony to it.
    I’d love to share a post at some point this summer, or perhaps in the fall, when my history of the Revolution is coming out. I’ve put my web page in the sign in section, would be happy to hear from you with any suggestions!

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