Candide

This essay has a total of 1653 words and 7 pages.

Candide


Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire's novella, Candide, incorporates many themes, yet
concentrates a direct assault on the ideas of Leibniz and Pope. These two well-known
philosophers both held the viewpoint that the world created by God was the best of all
possibilities, a world of perfect order and reason. Pope specifically felt that each human
being is a part of God's great and all knowing plan or design for the world.


Voltaire had a very opposite point of view in that he saw a world of needless pain and
suffering all around him. Voltaire, a deist, believed that God created the world, yet he
felt that the people were living in a situation that was anything but perfect. Thus, the
major theme of Candide is one of the world not being the best of all possibilities, full
of actions definitely not determined by reason or order, but by chance and coincidence.


To prove his point, Voltaire uses pointed satire directed at various organizations and
groups prevalent in his time period. In particular, Voltaire takes aim at organized
religion, in particular Catholicism, as well as aristocratic arrogance and war. All of
Voltaire's comments are precisely chosen to convey his point that those in power were
completely corrupt in all their thoughts and actions.


Throughout the entire book, Voltaire portrays religious men, such as monks and priests, as
hypocrites who do not live up to the religious standards that they set upon others.
Voltaire first attacks the men of the Church and their hypocrisy in chapter three. After
escaping from the Bulgars, Candide was obviously in need of food and possibly medical
attention, but could find no help. When he came upon a minister who had just spoken of
charity, Candide asked for some food to eat, but was harshly turned away. After speaking
of charity to others, the minister turned Candide away just because they didn't share the
same view of the Pope. To make matters worse, the minister's wife proceeded to throw a pot
of urine over Candide's head. Voltaire used these rather repulsive acts to show the
hypocrisy found in many church affiliated men of his time. One minute the minister was
talking to the townspeople of charity and brotherly love, while the next minute he rudely
dismissed a man in need of that very Christian ideal. While I don't completely agree with
Voltaire that the religious men of that time were so blatantly hypocritical, I do feel
that they were a bit confused. They were so content on teaching others by words and not
actions. In many situations, it is the actions that make the impact…not the words.
Voltaire saw the ministers speak of brotherly with their mouths, but turn their back on
those who needed the guidance and love of which they preached.


Voltaire elaborated further on brotherly love by introducing the character of James, the
Anabaptist. James is described as, "A man who had never been christened…a creature
without wings but with two legs and a soul." (27). This very man took Candide in with an
offering of bread, drink, money, and the opportunity to learn a trade. James was the exact
opposite of the minister in more ways than just his kind actions towards Candide. The
description of James said that he was not an angel, but he did have a soul. By using this
severe character contrast, Voltaire is saying that those who may not hold high positions
of power in the Church, many times show more Christian love than those who do. I agree
with Voltaire in that many times people look to those in authority to find guidance, when
in reality, they can find true love and fellowship right in their midst. During the
Enlightenment, officials in the Church were not the same people who truly touched the
hearts and lives of the people around them.


Beyond attacking men of faith, Voltaire depicts the Church as oppressive, corrupt, and he
felt that it was of no need to the general public. In chapter six, Pangloss is hanged for
his speech and Candide simply for listening with "an air of approbation" The reason given
for this hanging is that the people believed a ritual hanging would keep the earth from
quaking again. Voltaire uses this barbaric sacrifice not only to show that the church had
too much power, but that the Church's abuse of power directly went against the principles
they so strongly advocated. In this example, it seems that Voltaire is more opposed to the
spread of power than to the actual principles of Christianity. In Voltaire's eyes, the
Church had become a form of government more than an institution to provide spiritual
support to the people. This idea is supported by Candide's encounter with the wise man of
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