essaysHuman Corruption in Candide
According to Voltaire, Man’s goal is his own happiness. This goal all too often is a mirage. (Gay 26) Man is the prey of his own passion, victim of his own stupidity.
Man is the play thing of fate. (Gay 26) The human condition is set with ills that no amount of rationality can cure. (Gay 27) This human condition translates to human corruption. Voltaire hints of this corruption through Candide.
Candide impacted society as Voltaire knew it. English Admirals that loose battles are no longer shot as object lessons in military perseverance. (Weitz 11)
However, there is very little lessening in our time, of the human scourges of war, famine, rape, avarice, persecution, bigotry, superstition, intolerance, and hypocrisy that make up this element of human corruption that is addressed in Candide. Candide still serves as an effectual whip with which to lash once again the perpetuators of this suffering.
(Weitz 12) The theme of human misery is Voltaire’s primary achievement in integrating philosophy and literature in Candide. (Weitz 12) “Do you think,” asks Candide of Martin as they approached the coast of France,”that men have always massacred each other, as they do today that they have always been false, faithless, ungrateful, thieving, weak, inconstant, mean spirited, envious, greedy, drunken, miserly, ambitious, bloody, slanderous, debauched, fanatic, hypocritical, and stupid?”. Martin replies with further question.” do you think that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they could find them?” “of course I do” Candide answers.
Martin responds,”well, if hawks have always had the same character, why should you suppose men have changed theirs?”.
Although survey of the characters in the novel certainly supports much of this assessment by Martin, one need think only of the snobbish Baron, the knavish Dutch captain, Vanderbendur, the Brazilian Governor, the bestial Bat avian sailor, the hypocritical Jesuits, the avaricious Jews, and the thieving abbe’ from Perigord. (Weitz 13)
Andrews, Wayne. Voltaire.
New York: New Directions Pub. 1981
Gay, Peter. Voltaire’s Politics.New York: Random House, 1965
Philosophy in literature. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press.1963