Candide, by Voltaire:  Voltaire\'s Candide is a novel which contains
conceptual ideas and at the
same time is also exaggerated. Voltaire offers sad themes disguised by
jokes and witticism, and the story itself presents a distinctive outlook
on life.
* © Copyright Inc. *
book reports
[Paper Title]:
Candide, by Voltaire
Candide, by Voltaire
Voltaire\'s Candide is a novel which contains conceptual ideas and at the
same time is also exaggerated. Voltaire offers sad themes disguised by
jokes and witticism, and the story itself presents a distinctive outlook
on life. The crucial contrast in the story deals with irrational ideas
as taught to Candide about being optimistic, versus reality as viewed by
the rest of the world.
The main theme which is presented throughout the novel is optimism.
Out of every unfortunate situation in the story, Candide, the main
character, has been advised by his philosopher-teacher that everything
in the world happens for the better, because "Private misfortunes
contribute to the general good, so that the more private misfortunes
there are, the more we find that all is well" (Voltaire, p. 31).
Pangloss, the philosopher, tries to defend his theories by determining
the positive from the negative situations and by showing that
misfortunes bring some privileges. As Candide grows up, whenever
something unfortunate happens, Pangloss would turn the situation around,
bringing out the good in it. Candide learns that optimism is "The
passion for maintaining that all is right when all goes wrong "
(Voltaire, p.86).
According to Rene Pomeau, "Voltaire-Candide...have made him [Candide]
acquainted with the bad and the good side of human existence. The moral
of Candide is born out of its style; it is the art of extracting
happiness from the desolate hopping-about of the human insect" (Adams;
Pomeau p.137). Pomeau explains that Candide shows both sides of
humanity; how both great and terrible events are standard in a human
life. Also according to Pomeau, the whole point of the story is to
debate between good and bad; for example, as Candide becomes more
independent, he starts to doubt that only good comes out of life.
Pangloss is a very hopeful character in the story because he refuses to
accept bad. He is also somewhat naive and believes that he could make
the world a better place by spreading his theories on optimism. When
Candide had met up with Pangloss after a long period of time, Pangloss
said that he was almost hanged, then dissected, then beaten. Candide
asked the philosopher if he still thought that everything was for the
better, and Pangloss replied that he still held his original views. No
matter how little Pangloss believed in the fact that somehow everything
would turn out well, he still maintained his original views. Voltaire
exaggerates his point on optimism; there is nobody in reality who is
positive about everything all the time, especially about something so
horrible. One could conclude that Pangloss is an irrational and inane
figure, and Voltaire tries to expose how incomprehensible his beliefs
are which do not measure up to reality.
According to Linguet, "Candide offers us the saddest of themes
disguised under the merriest of jokes" (Adams; Wade p. 144). It seems
as if Candide was written as a comedy; not because of humor, but because
every time something bad occurs, a quick turn of events happens which
bring everything back to normal. One moment Candide murders the brother
of the woman he loves, the next moment he travels to a land where he
sees women mating with monkeys. In instances like these, it doesn\'t
seem like Voltaire is serious about tragic events.
During the course of Candide\'s journey, an earthquake strikes,
murdering thirty thousand men, women, and children. In reality, this is
a horrible predicament to be involved with. In Pangloss\' world, " It is
impossible for things not to be where they are, because everything is
for the best" (Voltaire, p. 35), meaning that the earthquake was
necessary in the course of nature, and so there was definitely a
rationale for the situation.
To show contrast in the story, Voltaire introduces a character whose
beliefs are completely opposite than the beliefs of Pangloss. This
character is Martin, a friend and advisor of Candide who he meets on his
journey. Martin is also a scholar, and a spokesman for pessimism.
Martin continuously tries to prove to Candide that there is little
virtue, morality, and happiness in the world. When a cheerful couple
are seen walking and singing, Candide tells Martin "At least you must
admit that these people are happy. Until now, I have not found in the
whole inhabited earth...anything but miserable people. But this girl
and this monk, I\'d be