Candide’s Adventures in Voltaire’s Novel

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In Voltaire’s novella, Candide, Voltaire satirizes many ideas, institutions, and lines of thinking through the protagonist Candide’s adventures. Candide goes through several misfortunes while persistently believing in his mentor Pangloss’s optimistic philosophy that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” (22). Through satirizing the characters in the story and Candide’s unfortunate adventures, Voltaire expresses his abhorrence of the folly of seeing only one side of something and being blinded to all other aspects of it.

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In Candide, Voltaire satirizes the philosophical views of the characters. The philosopher Pangloss only sees the good in the world. At one point in the story Candide finds Pangloss dying of syphilis, but Pangloss tells Candide that syphilis is “an indispensable element in the best of worlds” because without it, “we would now neither have chocolate nor cochineal” (24). He is ignorant to the evil in the world and only believes that bad things happen for the greater good. Candide also shares Pangloss’s optimistic beliefs. Voltaire satirizes their optimistic beliefs using explicit imagery of gruesome events. For example, when Candide finds Pangloss after being banished from the castle, Pangloss tells Candide that “[Cunegonde] was disemboweled by Bulgar soldiers after having been raped as much as a woman can be. They smashed the baron’s head when he tried to defend her, the baroness was hacked to pieces and my poor pupil was treated the same as her sister” (23). However, despite all the awful things that happen to them and the people they know. Candide and Pangloss both remain optimistic.Voltaire ridicules their blind optimistic philosophy through their constant sufferings while having them keep their optimism. Although Voltaire ridicules blind optimism, he also shows the fault in extreme pessimism by using the character Martin and his extreme pessimism as a foil for extreme optimism. Martin only sees the bad in the world and is blinded to the good. When Candide tells him “there is some good in the world”, he answers “I haven’t seen it” (73). He expects the worse in everything, such as when he tells Candide that he is naive to “imagine that an half-breed valet [Cacambo], with five or six million in his pocket, will go find your mistress at the end of the world and bring her to you here in Venice” (88). But eventually Cacambo proves to be faithful, which proves that there is good in the world and shows the fault in Martin’s pessimistic philosophy. Through Candide’s experiences, Voltaire shows the fault and foolishness of Pangloss’s and Martin’s philosophies that only see one part of life.

While Voltaire denounces Pangloss’s and Martin’s philosophies that only see one aspect of life, he also includes characters that only see one side of other people. The main motive that Candide has through his journey is his love for Cunegonde. However at the end, Cunegonde “has become ugly” and because of that “Candide had no desire to marry Cunegonde” anymore (108-109). Candide had only loved Cunegonde because of her appearance. Voltaire satirizes this by having Candide go through innumerous misfortunes and sufferings because of his love for Cunegonde’s beauty and then have him lose his love for Cunegonde because she had lost her beauty. Voltaire also satirizes how Cunegonde’s brother, Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, view people solely on their social status. The baron refuses to let Candide marry her sister because of her “seventy-two generations of nobility” (52). He ignores all the struggles Candide had gone through due to his love for Cunegonde and he also ignored how Candide “rescued [him] from the galleys and freed [him] and [his] sister” (109). The baron only sees the social status of Candide and Cunegonde, and he completely disregards everything Candide had done for them. Voltaire also shows how people are only aware of their own struggles and are oblivious to others. While on a ship, Cunegonde was complaining about her own misfortunes and “nearly laughed [when the old woman] claimed to have been more unfortunate than she is” (38). The old woman shares her story and points out how every passenger in the ship “has told himself he was the most miserable person in the world” (45). By satirizing and proving the characters’ views of others wrong, Voltaire expresses his abhorrence of only seeing one part of a person and ignoring other aspects of the person.

In his novella, Candide, Voltaire denounces and expresses his abhorrence of seeing only one part of something and being blinded to all other aspects of it. Through Candide’s misfortunes, he satirizes the foolishness of being a blind optimist and seeing the good in life but blinded to the bad in life. He also shows the fault in blind pessimism by proving Martin’s low expectations wrong. Voltaire also expresses his abhorrence through the characters’ views of others. He satirizes how Candide loves Cunegonde for her beauty only and how the baron only sees social status. He also shows how others people are aware of their own struggles but sometimes blinded to the struggles of others.

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