Candide, Or Optimism: Voltaire
A rosy outlook on life was the theme of Voltaire’s satire, Candide, Or Optimism. Rather than embracing a truly pessimistic approach to the world, Voltaire seems to argue a realistic and reasonable approach to life. The humorous look at optimism and pessimism, as well as politics, religion, war, chivalric but hopeless romance, and more, provides fuel for his fire. However, there was one character that stood out from all the humor and seemingly never-ending optimism. Candide was tutored by the optimistic philosophical Professor Pangloss, a ridiculously optimistic character who finds everything, even those things that are awful, to be the will of God. He surely believes that God has created the best of all possible worlds. Even after a friend drowns, and after he is hung, dissected, and beaten, he still responds with unfailing optimism to the world. Needless to say, although Pangloss was annoying to me from start to finish, he never ceased to make me laugh. Pangloss gave instruction in “metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology.” He taught the innocent Candide that every decision he makes has a cause an effect. However, the next part of his philosophy simply states that “everything is for the best.” Lastly, Candide is taught that the Baron’s castle was the “finest of all castles” and the Baroness was “the best of all possible Baronesses” (Chap. 1, pg. 302). His philosophy is both the most important point for debate among the novel’s characters and one of the main targets of Voltaire’s satirical jabs. Under such a system, humans perceive evil only because they do not understand the force governing the world and thus do not know that every ill exists only for a greater good. Pangloss makes reference to his religious beliefs in his teachings as well. “Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles” (Chap. 1, pg. 303.) Pangloss’s argument about spectacles demonstrates a ridiculous inability to properly...
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