Candide Essay Exam

Topics: Candide

How can one express his ideas in a novel in a disguised way? Through comedy. Many great writers have conveyed their most troubling issues with society by using satire in their works of literature. In Candide, by Voltaire, Voltaire satirizes various concepts and philosophies through many of the events that happen to the young, naïve Candide. Furthermore, Voltaire’s great comic gift is illustrated by an ample amount of events, including when Pangloss gets syphilis, Jacques the Anabaptist drowns, and when Candide encounters The Grand Inquisitor; all these occurrences show the weaknesses of the society of his time.

The folly of optimism is a main target in the novel Candide. Pangloss, being the most optimistic character, finds himself using absurd logic to try and lighten up tragic events that happen to him and those around him. For example, when Pangloss was explaining to Candide that he had syphilis, he said, “It was an indispensable thing in the best of worlds, a necessary ingredient; for if Columbus had not caught, in an island in America, this disease which poisons the source of generation, and which is obviously opposed to the great purpose of nature, we would not have either chocolate or cochineal (page 23)”.

Voltaire is using Pangloss’ character to satirize the optimism found within society. Additionally, Pangloss’s absolute optimism is a mockery of the philosophy of an Enlightenment thinker named Leibniz. Despite all of his personal misfortunes and the immense suffering he observes around him, Pangloss irrationally insists that all evil in the world is necessary and ultimately for the best.

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Futile philosophical speculation within the chaotic world in the novel drives many characters to irrational and destructive decisions.

In Candide, Pangloss and Candide are both susceptible to this type of thinking. In a specific situation, while Jacques the Anabaptist was drowning, Pangloss does not permit Candide to save him because “the Lisbon roads had been formed expressly for this Anabaptist to be drowned in (page 25)”. Through this event, Pangloss’ speculation and philosophy causes the death of a person. Therefore, Voltaire is using his comic gift, satire, to express that philosophy is, in itself, useless and damaging. The fact that Pangloss always insists on his philosophy that all is for the best is just one example of his satire, which has been widely recognized all over the world. Aside from optimism and speculation, Voltaire is also known for his beliefs against the church and their religious leaders. This idea is expressed in an ample amount of ways as we encounter hypocritical religious leaders during the course of the novel.

One example is when Candide finds that Cunegonde is in possession of both a Jew and a religious leader of the Catholic Church. “The Grand Inquisitor noticed me one day at Mass; he eyed me a great deal, and sent word to me that he had secret affairs to speak to me about… The Inquisitor threatened him with an auto-da-fe. Finally my Jew, intimidated, made a bargain…the Jew would have Monday, Wednesday, and the Sabbath day for him, and the Inquisitor would have the other days of the week (page 31)”. Voltaire uses both the Jew and The Grand Inquisitor as examples of corruption of the church. The Inquisitor uses his religious power to intimidate the Jew and to keep a mistress. Voltaire used satire to attack the corruption of the clergy and demonstrate how dishonest they can be.

That is of course, illustrating his own time period. The novel Candide, written by one of the most prominent Enlightenment thinkers of Europe, disguised his philosophies and ideas in stories by means of satire. This literary device allowed him to highlight the evil and brutality of the world when men are meekly accepting of their fate. Candide was written primarily to satirize the views of Leibniz’s philosophy. Furthermore, Voltaire uses satire as a means of pointing out injustice, cruelty, corruption and has been widely recognized for that. Because behind every laugh in Candide, there is a grave issue being brought out.

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