Voltaire’s Candide: “All is Not for the Best”Voltaire’s Candide: “All is Not for the Best”Voltaire’s Candide is the story of an innocent man’s experiences in amad and evil world, his struggle to survive in that world, and his need toultimately come to terms with it. All people experience the turmoil of lifeand must overcome obstacles, both natural and man-made, in order to eventuallyachieve happiness. In life, “man must find a medium between what Martin(scholar and companion to Candide) calls the “convulsions of anxiety” and the”lethargy of boredom”” (Richter 137). After a long and difficult struggle inwhich Candide is forced to overcome misfortune to find happiness, he concludesthat all is not well (as he has previously been taught by his tutor, Dr. Pangloss), and that he must work in order to find even a small amount ofpleasure in life.Order now
Candide grows up in the Castle of Westphalia and is taught by thelearned philosopher, Dr. Pangloss. Candide is abruptly exiled from the castlewhen found kissing the Baron’s daughter, Cunegonde. Devastated by theseparation from Cunegonde, his true love, Candide sets out to different placesin the hope of finding her and achieving total happiness. On his journey, hefaces a number of misfortunes, among them being tortured during army training,yet he continues to believe that there is a “cause and effect” for everything. Candide is reunited with Cunegonde, and regains a life of prosperity, but soonall is taken away, including his beloved Cunegonde.
He travels on, and yearslater he finds her again, but she is now fat and ugly. His wealth is all goneand so is his love for the Baron’s daughter. Throughout Candide, we see howaccepting situations and not trying to change or overcome obstacles can bedamaging. Life is full of struggles, but it would be nonproductive if peoplepassively accepted whatever fate had in store for them, shrugging off theirpersonal responsibility. Voltaire believes that people should not allowthemselves to be victims.
He sneers at naive, accepting types, informing usthat people must work to reach their utopia (Bottiglia 93). In Candide, reality and “the real world” are portrayed as beingdisappointing. Within the Baron’s castle, Candide is able to lead a Utopianlife. After his banishment, though, he recognizes the evil of the world,seeing man’s sufferings.
The only thing that keeps Candide alive is his hopethat things will get better. Even though the world is filled with disaster,Candide has an optimistic attitude that he adopted from Dr. Pangloss’ teachings. In spite of his many trials, Candide believes that all is well and everythingis for the best. Only once, in frustration, does he admit that he sometimesfeels that optimism is “the mania of maintaining that all is well when we aremiserable” (Voltaire 41).
Candide’s enthusiastic view of life is contrastedwith, and challenged by the suffering which he endures throughout the book. Voltaire wrote this book in a mocking and satirical manner in order to expresshis opinion that passive optimism is foolish (Richter 134). Candide eventually learns how to achieve happiness in the face ofmisadventure. He learns that in order to attain a state of contentment, onemust be part of society where there is collective effort and work.
Labor,Candide learns, eliminates the three curses of mankind: want, boredom, and vice. In order to create such a society, man must do the following: love his fellowman, be just, be vigilant, know how to make the best of a bad situation andkeep from theorizing. Martin expresses this last requirement for such asociety succinctly when he says, “Let’s work without speculating; it’s the onlyway of rendering life bearable” (Voltaire 77). One of the last people that Candide meets in his travels is an old, poorTurkish farmer who teaches Candide a lesson which allows him to come to termswith the world and to settle down happily. The revelation occurs when Candideand his friends hear of the killing of two intimate advisors of the sultan, andthey ask the Turkish farmer if he could give them more details about thesituation. “I know nothing of it, said the good man, and I have never caredto knowthe name of a single mufti advisor or viziersultan.
. . I presume that in general those who meddle in public businesssometimes perish miserably, and that they deserve their fate; butI am satisfied with sending the fruits of my garden there. ” (Voltaire76)Upon learning that this man did not own “an enormous and splendid property”(Voltaire 76), but rather a mere twenty acres that he cultivates with hischildren, Candide is startled. He sees that the man is happy with his life,and at that point Candide decides to build his own life around the principal ofbeing productive. He decides that all he needs to be happy is a garden tocultivate so that he, too, can keep from the three great evils.
Candide’s garden symbolizes his surrender to the world and hisacceptance of it. He eventually realizes that his former ambitions of findingand achieving a perfect state of happiness were fulfilled, though his successeswere not as great as he had wished. Instead, he has found happiness in a simpleway of life. He also learns that everything in life is not evil, which heperceived to be the case while undergoing misfortunes. He also concludes thatDr.
Pangloss was right all along, “everything is for the best. “Throughout the entire book, we observe Candide searching for happiness,sustained by his dream of achieving that happiness. He believes, in hisoptimistic way, that he will find Cunegonde, his true love, and Dr. Pangloss,his mentor, and all will be well. When Candide is reunited with both herealizes that he was right not to lose hope.
In essence, it was Candide’soptimism that keeps him from a state of total dejection, maintaining his sanityduring troubled times. Candide eventually achieves happiness with his friendsin their simple, yet full, lives. The book’s ending affirms Voltaire’s moralthat one must work to attain satisfaction. Work helps Candide overcome histragedies and enables him to live peacefully and in contentment. The messageof Candide is: “Don’t rationalize, but work; Don’t utopianize, but improve. We must cultivate our own garden, for no one is going to do it for us” (Richter161).
Works CitedBottiglia, William. “Candide’s Garden. ” Voltaire: A Collection of CriticalEssays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. , 1968. Richter, Peyton.
Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980. Tsanoff, Radoslav. Voltaire’s Candide and the Critics. California: WadsworthPublishing Company, Inc.
, 1966. Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1976.English