Candide: Optimistic vs. Pessimistic Views of the World

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One of the main dilemmas in Candide is that of optimistic vs. pessimistic views of the world. The optimistic viewpoint of world is related to the Christianity which Voltaire critiques throughout the whole story. Voltaire satirizes religion by means of a series of corrupt, hypocritical religious leaders but he does not condemn the everyday religious believer. Candide grew up being taught by Pangloss that this is the best world and that things happen for a reason. This Pangloss' viewpoint, which is optimistic view of world that is based on Christianity, is what troubles Candide later in the story; for Pangloss, "it is impossible for things not to be where they are, because everything is for the best" (Voltaire, 35). However, Candide suffers and witnesses many horrible events such as floggings, rapes, robberies, unjust executions, disease, an earthquake, and betrayals that made him to start questioning his belief in optimism. Also, the characters - the old woman, Martin, and Cacambo - that he meets during his journey, who are more intelligent and experienced than Candide, have all reached pessimistic conclusions about humanity and the world and they made him to question his beliefs that Pangloss has taught him and showed him how naive he may be about the real world. Showing Candide's constant beliefs in optimism conflicting these experienced characters' beliefs in pessimism, Voltaire critiques the Christianity. Voltaire shows negative attitude toward organized religion – Roman Catholic Church, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam - through a series of corrupt, hypocritical religious leaders such as a Pope who as a Catholic priest should have been celibate but has a daughter, a hard-line Catholic Inquisitor who keeps a mistress, a Franciscan friar who operates as a jewel thief, and finally a Jesuit colonel who has homosexual tendencies. However, Voltaire described James the Anabaptist as the most generous and humane character in the novel showing his positive...
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