The Enlightenment had a very strong focus on progress, with philosophers and writers constantly arguing for major reform. In Candide, the true experiences of progress and nature are being told in the satirical voice of renowned Enlightenment writer Voltaire. This work directly contradicts all of the Enlightenment theories that were being set forth during its time while also relating to the themes of progress, experience, and nature in Rousseau’s Second Discourse. Voltaire explains that progress does not evolve easily, experiences are never entirely positive and advantageous, and nature has become entirely corrupted.
Progress is one of the major themes being set forth in Voltaire’s Candide, with a satirical focus on Enlightenment ideals. The Enlightenment basically revolved around the idea of progress, a sort of intellectual reformation among society that would allow for technological and natural advances. Writers encouraged perfectionism, where applying the power of knowledge was entirely good. It was also encouraged to question everything about life, investigating and finding truths to progress. There was constant optimism around the reshaping of the political and social world. However in Candide, Voltaire is directly criticizing the ideals of progress and reformation, despite being an Enlightenment writer himself. The novel functions as an exception to Enlightenment faith and optimism. There is a message declaring that this progress will eventually take place but we have to work in order to achieve it. It won’t come easily, and Candide is a perfect example of this ideal. After yearning for Cunegonde, Candide attempts to kiss her and ends up being kicked out of his home. Baron, Candide’s brother would not allow for the two to be together. This small act leads to a long series of terrible events such as war, disease, rape, shipwrecks, murder and more. Voltaire exclaims that the true shift in philosophy is based on progress,...
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