Voltaires Candide Essay

This essay has a total of 1930 words and 9 pages.

Voltaires Candide



VOLTAIRE’S CANDIDE



The beginning of the 17th century marked many changes for Europe. These changes were
both physical and philosophical in nature. Common citizens were tired of being abused,
mistreated and most of all labeled as peasants and commoners by the aristocracy. They
were fed up with the hypocrisy of the church and the abuse of power by its leaders in the
name of God. One man stood tall above the rest. Francois Marie Arouet was born November
21, 1694 to a middle class family in Paris. At that time, Louis the XIV was king of
France and the overwhelming majority lived in harsh conditions. The aristocracy of France
ruled with an iron fist and poverty was widespread throughout the land. Francois attended
the College Louis le Grand, where he got his Jesuit education. His deep-rooted satirical
views were prevalent even as a child. After college, Francois worked as a secretary for
the French Ambassador to Holland, but left that position to pursue his writing career.
Francois’ writings soon became famous in France. His quick tongue and fast pen soon got
him into trouble with the French government and he got exiled to Sully. Using his fame,
Voltaire quickly got those in power to allow him back into France. Shortly after he
returned he was blamed for a piece of writing that opposed the government, which sent him
to prison. While in prison, Francois assumed the pen name “Voltaire” and wrote his first
play, “Oedipe”. Shortly after is release, the 24-year-old Voltaire’s Oedipe was produced
in Paris and became an instant success. After being exiled to England, Voltaire became
familiar with the English language and in 1979, published Candide. Candide was by far his
most famous work. In it he satirizes and criticizes Leibnizian optimism, aristocratic
snobbery, the Protestant and Catholic Church and human nature.


Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician of Voltaire's time, developed the idea
that the world they were living in at that time was "the best of all possible worlds."
Leibniz’s optimism displays the philosophical system that believed everything already was
for the best, no matter how terrible the circumstances seemed. Through Candide, Voltaire
showed the world full of natural disasters and brutality. Voltaire also used contrast in
the personalities of the characters to convey the message that Leibniz's philosophy was
incorrect. Leibniz’s philosophies were based on the idea that everything in the world was
determined by fate, theorized that God, having the ability to pick from an infinite number
of worlds, chose this world, "the best of all possible worlds." Although Voltaire chose
that simple quality of Leibniz's philosophy to satirize, Leibniz meant a little more than
just that. His philosophy stated that God chose "the best of all possible worlds," he
also meant that God, being the perfection He is, chose the best world available to him,
unfortunately it was a world containing evil. Voltaire satirized this literal meaning of
Leibniz’s philosophy by creating the character Dr. Pangloss, an unconditional follower of
Leibniz's philosophy. Voltaire shows this early in the novel by stating, "He proved
admirably that there is no effect without a cause and that, in this best of all possible
worlds.... (16)" Pangloss goes on to say that everything had its purpose and things were
made for the best. For example, the nose was created for the purpose of wearing spectacles
(Voltaire 16). Because of his "great knowledge," Candide, at this point a very naive and
impressionable youth, regards Pangloss as the greatest philosopher in the world, a
reverence that will soon be contradicted by contact with reality. The name Pangloss is
translated as "all tongue" and "windbag." The colloquialism "windbag" implies that a
person is all talk, and he takes no action.


The upper class in Europe at the time of Voltaire was infused with the idea that they were
divinely superior to common people. Voltaire attacks this belief in stating in Candide
that birth is an accident and every man is the same. In Candide, Voltaire attacks this
school of thought using the baron, Cunegund’s brother as an example. When Cacambo and
Candide flee Buenos Ayres, they come to join the rebellion. The Baron and Candide are
joyfully reunited, but when Candide announces his intention to marry Cunegund the Baron
becomes furious and attacks him. He refuses to see his sister marry below her station.
The Baron remembers not that Candide saved his life. He tries to kill him at the very
mention of marrying his sister based solely on the fact that she has 72 lineages and
Candide has only 71. Voltaire criticizes the nobility’s belief in its “natural
superiority” over common people.


The history of the Catholic Church in Europe has been laced with corruption and misuse of
power for hundreds of years. Church members use the name of God to enforce laws and
oftentimes were more feared and respected than kings. Voltaire’s view of the church and
how it was operated is demonstrated through two characters in Candide. Voltaire uses
Father Giroflee in Candide to demonstrate what is wrong with the Catholic Church. His
parents force him into the monastery in order to increase his brother’s fortune. At the
time of Voltaire, a lot of parents forced their children into the church system oftentimes
against their will. Father Giroflee pays a prostitute named Pacquette for her services,
thus totally going against all church values and restrictions. Another example of what’s
wrong with the church is the Grand Inquisitor. He orders that Don Issachar, the Jew share
Cunegund with him and when he refuses; the Grand Inquisitor threatens the use of
auto-de-fe, which means, “act of faith”. When Pangloss expressed his views about the
church, the Grand Inquisitor orders that he be hanged and Candide whipped because he
agreed with Panglosse’s views. These events show barbarism and superstition of the
Inquisition. After the earthquake, the Inquisitor ordered that a few people be hanged and
burned believing that it would prevent future earthquakes. A few days later another
earthquake ripped through the city proving that burning the innocent people was in vain.
Voltaire had a way of directly attacking every act of any individual that he chose to
satirize in an obvious way. Throughout the Middle Ages, the officials of the Inquisition
systematically tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people on the barest accusations
Continues for 5 more pages >>




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