Pangloss and his student Candide maintain that “everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”. This idea of optimism is a version of the 19th century philosophies of Enlightenment age. Voltaire does not accept that a perfect God has to exist, so he can afford to mock the idea that the world must be completely good, and he uses satire on this idea throughout the novel. The optimists, Pangloss and Candide , suffer and witness a wide variety of horrors-floggings, rapes, robberies, unjust executions, disease, earthquakes, betrayals and slavery. These horrors do not serve any apparent good, but point only to cruelty and foolishness of humanity. Pangloss struggles to find justification for the terrible things in the world, but his arguments are simply absurd, as, for example, when he claims that syphilis needed to be transmitted from the America to Europe so that Europeans could enjoy New World delicacies such as chocolate. More intelligent and experienced characters, such as the old woman, Martin and Cacambo, have all reached pessimistic conclusions about humanity and the world. By the novel’s end, even Pangloss is forced to admit that he doesn’t “believe a word of” his own previous optimistic conclusions.
Voltaire satirizes structured religion by means of a series of crooked, hypocritical religious leaders, who appear throughout the novel. In the novel, we encountered the daughter of a Pope, a man who as a Catholic priest should have been celibate; a hard-line Catholic Inquisitor who hypocritically keeps a mistress; and a Franciscan friar who operates as a jewel thief, despite the wow of property taken by members of the Franciscan order. Finally, Voltaire introduces a Jesuit colonel with marked homosexual tendencies. Religious leaders in the novel also carry out inhuman campaigns of religious oppression against those who disagree with them on even the smallest of theological matters. For example, the Inquisition persecutes Pangloss for...
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