Voltaire's Candide

Topics: Candide

Throughout Voltaire’s Candide, the character of Professor Pangloss’ assertion that humanity lives in “[the] best of worlds” is referenced multiple times, whether by Pangloss himself or by Candide in reference to Pangloss’ teachings (30). This optimistic claim, backed by Pangloss’ belief in sufficient reason and cause and effect, is systematically disproven throughout the novel by the telling of what has been witnessed by the old woman, and the pessimism of Martin, contracting Pangloss’ claim.

The old woman’s experiences and her subsequent retelling and interpretation of what they mean in terms of good and bad fortune and human suffering strike down Pangloss’ claims that this world is the best of all possible worlds.

The old woman’s misfortunes begin with the death of her lover, the prince of Massa-Carrara, followed by being kidnapped, her kidnapping and ravishing by Moorish pirates, being caught in the Plague in Algiers, being sold multiple times, having a buttock eaten, and relocating extensively (50-57). The old woman concludes her recounting of her life by asking Cunégonde to see who on board the ship does not think himself “the most miserable man alive” to show that the world is full of suffering, in order to show that Pangloss is wrong, and that this miserable world cannot be the best of all worlds.

Furthermore, Pangloss’ theory is presented with a foil later in the novel, when Martin presents his own views on the world, stating that “man was created by the forces of evil” and that the devil “meddles so much with the affairs of this world” and describing how the people of the world seek to harm each other, whether by feuds of neighboring towns, or by armies havoc over Europe (92).

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By saying that the forces of evil are at work in this specific world, the same world that Pangloss insists is the best possible world, Martin’s pessimism contests Pangloss’ optimism by elaborating on all the evils of the world and how they seek to cause pain and evil, undermining the idea of the “best possible world”.

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Voltaire's Candide. (2022, Mar 03). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/voltaire-s-candide/

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