Candide – A Literary Analysis

INTRODUCTION

First published in 1759, Candide, ou l’Optimisme by Voltaire is a French satire where the story revolves around the life of a naïve and innocent young man whose life was suddenly catapulted into chaos and misfortunes, challenging everything that he has believed in. As the story progressed, as trouble after trouble followed him, he eventually questioned what his Professor Pangloss had instilled in him that everything happens for the best. Rich in humor, sarcasm, metaphor, and symbolism, the author was able to drive his point to the readers his strong standpoint against optimism, religion, politics, and aristocracy.

PESSIMISM VS. OPTIMISM

Candide grew up in a comfortable home and was brought up with an optimistic view in life thanks to Professor Pangloss. Voltaire, though, was keen on squashing this philosophy as, throughout the story, the author’s pessimism was very predominant. On numerous instances, just as the boy would find redemption from a catastrophe, another misfortune would happen. The point where he was starting to question his belief’ is evident in the scene after the earthquake in Lisbon where he was flogged and the professor was hanged. He had said to himself that it it’s already best of all possible worlds, how then about the other? Also, as you can see in the story, Candide had encountered different people, different characters, all who experienced different types of hard luck in their lives. The old woman said when they were aboard the ship. She dared them to ask the other men in the ship if they too had once in their life cursed their existence. The author somewhat emphasizes here that everyone experiences trial of some kind and some even fared worse than the others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they cause it to themselves, some injustices happen without any justifiable reason at all (like the Earthquake of Lisbon). Again it somewhat shows how the author here highlights how he thinks of Leibniz’s and the Enlightenment thinkers’ philosophies on optimism as utter foolishness.

RELIGION and POLITICS

This story dates back to the 18th century and yet it seems the strong views in religion and politics is just the same as it is today. If you would read the first few chapters closely, you would see how certain characters and situations depict the author’s view on the hypocrisy of certain religions. There was the Pope, the Inquisition and the Abbe who represented Christianity,

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