Voltaire’s CandideFrancois Marie Arouet de Voltaire was the French author of the novella Candide, also known as ;Optimism;(Durant and Durant 724). In Candide, Voltaire sought to point out the fallacy of Gottfried William von Leibniz’s theory of optimism and the hardships brought on by the resulting inaction toward the evils of the world. Voltaire’s use of satire, and its techniques of exaggeration and contrast highlight the evil and brutality of war and the world in general when men are meekly accepting of their fate.
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.; This systematic optimism shown by Leibniz is the philosophical system that believed everything already was for the best, no matter how terrible it seemed. In this satire, 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 should not be dealt with any seriousness.Leibniz, sometimes regarded as a Stoic or Fatalist because his 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.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
Even though 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. It seems as though Voltaire wanted to ridicule Leibniz’s philosophy so much that he chose to satirize only the literal meaning and fatal acceptance of evil of Leibniz’s philosophy.To get his point across in Candide, Voltaire created the character Dr.
Pangloss, an unconditional follower of Leibniz’s philosophy. Voltaire shows this early in the novella 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 (Frautschi 75). 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. In this case, Leibniz’s philosophy is Stoic acceptance of the evil of the world.
As the story progresses, though, Pangloss loses faith in the Leibnizian philosophy. Although Pangloss suffered many hardships, he still sticks to the philosophy to avoid contradicting himself (Frautschi 69). Voltaire uses Pangloss and a contrasting character, Martin, to point out the shortcomings in Leibniz’s philosophy.A contrast to the views of Pangloss is the character Martin. Martin, a pessimist, is a friend and advisor to Candide whom he meets on his journey. Martin continuously tries to prove to Candide that there is little virtue, morality, and happiness in the world.
When a cheerful couple is seen walking and singing, Candide tells Martin, ;At least you must admit that these people are happy (80).; Martin answers Candide’s comment with the reply, ;I wager they are not (80).; Martin suggests that Candide invite the couple to dine at his hotel. As the young girl, now found to be Paquette, tells her story, Martin takes pleasure in knowing he has won the wager.Another contrast to this ;best of all possible worlds; is Eldorado.
Voltaire describes Eldorado as an extremely peaceful and serene country. Eldorado, a place that is ;impossible; to find, has no laws, jails, war, or need for material goods. Voltaire uses Eldorado as an epitome of the ;best of all possible worlds.; It contrasts the real outside world in which war and suffering are everyday occurrences. Another example of how Voltaire ridicules Pangloss’ optimistic philosophy is the mention of the Lisbon earthquake and fire. Even though the disastrous earthquake took over 30,000 lives, Pangloss still upheld his philosophical optimism by stating, ;For all this is for the very best…For it is impossible that things should not be where they are.(26); The disaster in Lisbon affected Voltaire’s.