Societal beliefs are constantly shifting with ideals appearing all the time. The shaping of humans has evolved since the very beginning. Candide by Voltaire shows the way societal views can differ and be influenced by others around us. Voltaire uses various literary devices that aid him in conveying his message. Voltaire’s main message throughout the novel Candide is that there are many philosophies that can contribute to shaping humans.
The time this novel was written society was a time that people questioned their beliefs, especially within the realms of religion.
Philosophers and religion at the time were the main source of people’s identity.Weather you correlate yourself with one or the other you can change your view of the world through the things you experience. The main character Candide in the novel can be portrayed as society at the time this book is written. Candide teter toters with where he stands when faced with situations where his beliefs are tested.
Candide is brought up in a castle sheltered from the rest of the world. He is taught by Pangloss who is a very optimistic person.
He teaches Candide that everything is for the best of the world. But when Candide subsequently experience the world himself, his ideal of the world is constantly tested. Such as, when Pangloss resists Candide from saving Jacques from drowning. Candide wanted to save him, but Pangloss explained to Candide that the Bay of Lisbon was created for the anabaptist to die. This is a point where Candide really questions Pangloss’ beliefs.
This is the equivalent of societies changing ideals in the belief of religion as the center of their belief system. Voltaire uses Candide to show society’s constant shifting views and beliefs. Candide’s weary belief of optimism is a way that Voltaire questions the ideal of optimism.
The ideal of optimism is a constant humorous theme throughout the novel. The use of Voltaire’s character Pangloss is the epitome of optimism in Candide. Voltaire uses Pangloss to show the over exaggeration of optimism in pre enlightenment philosophies. These philosophies are based around the idea that we go through things for a reason, and we cannot change what should happen in the event that we feel we have control over things. Voltaire’s consistent mocking of various pre enlightenment philosophies is what he tries to criticize.
Voltaire uses Pangloss is Candide’s tutor and a philosopher himself. His teaching is described a, “metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology”(15). Voltaire’s initial description of Pangloss in the beginning of the novel foreshadows the idiotic ideals and teachings of Pangloss. His over exaggeration of word use to simply describe a philosopher is the joke he tries to make of optimism. Throughout Candide Pangloss’ teaches are constantly described as “everything is the for the best and that man lives in the best of all possible worlds.” The thought that everything is always for the best is the satirical point that Voltaire makes throughout the whole novel. The constant upbringing of this ideal proves that Voltaire finds optimism as a joke. To add, Pangloss tries to justify acquiring syphilis to experiencing chocolate, along with the death of various characters. The persistent mocking of Pangloss is attributed to Voltaire’s disapproval of optimism.
To contradict, Voltaire also discusses pessimism. The idea of pessimism is not as mocked as much as optimism, but still is a point to bring up when discussing Voltaire’s message. Voltaire uses his character Martin as his way to discuss pessimism. Martin acts as the counterpart to Pangloss. As a character Martin is very complex, but effective in his message he portrays. Voltaire gives Martin a better grasp about the events that occur in the world. He is able to explain things to Candide that Pangloss would have never been able to understand. With Martin being mainly a pessimist, he has a tendency to be able to predict people’s actions. But this is contradicted with Cacambo. Martin believes that Cacombo will be dishonest when faced with the decision to betray his master or stay truthful. But Cacambo defies Martin’s beliefs and stays truthful. This is the flaw that Voltaire finds in pessimism. The thought that everything will end in the wrong way is Voltaire’s way of criticising pessimism. Voltaire uses Martin to show that pessimism also is not the way to go about life.
Tying everything together, Voltaire is able to find the middle ground and conclusion of pre enlightenment philosophies. Candide travels to Eldorado. Voltaire uses El Dorado to show his ideal society. Eldorado is seen as the happiest place on Earth filled with equality and flexibility. The flexibility that is shown in Eldorado is that you are free to be, think, and believe anything you want. Candide is initially surprised by the thought of a no religion place in the world. “Candide was enraptured as he listened to all this, and he said to himself, ‘This is quite different from Westphalia and the baron’s castle. If our friend Pangloss had seen Eldorado, he wouldn’t have said that the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh was the finest thing on Earth. It’s obvious that everyone ought to travel’”(63).
Eldorado becomes a place of sanctuary for people, and even Candide himself is mesmerized by Eldorado. Eldorado can be seen as a modern philosophy that Voltaire wants society to live by. With no organized religion, and necessary beliefs needed to fit in, Eldorado becomes a place that comes confusing to Candide and Cacambo. Candide taking pebbles only becomes a small value to him, but the pebbles can be portrayed as the greed that Candide still has left in his personality. Martin even sees the potential in Eldorado. “But I must confess that when I consider this globe, or rather this globule, I think that God has abandoned it to some malevolent being-with the exception of Eldorado”(73). Voltaire shows that even Martin can put his strong pessimistic views to the side and see the good in the world. Overall, Eldorado is Voltaire’s way of showing what he sees as an ideal place to live in, a world of peace and freedom of thought.
To conclude, Voltaire uses many of his characters to show his message. His overall message is different philosophies play a major role in shaping humans. With this combination we can achieve a functional society. This functional society is what Voltaire wanted to achieve with his own philosophy, while proving that pre enlightenment philosophies were bound to become outdated.