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.Order now
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 .