The Purpose of Voltaire's Candide

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  • Topic: Voltaire, Third World, Optimism
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  • Published : June 10, 2012
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Candide is a novella written by the French philosopher Voltaire during the Enlightenment. The novella is centered on a young man named Candide who lives under his mentor, Pangloss. The work takes us through the great hardships of Candide’s adventure, where he struggles to settle down and live a peaceful life. The novel concludes with Candide saying that in order to obtain happiness 'We must cultivate our garden'. The meaning of this quote seems to be open to a wide variety of interpretations. This quotation is essentially rejecting the notion of optimism and expressing the idea that there is no solution to the problems of the world, and that the only thing we can do is carry on and ignore the world’s hardships. Throughout the story, Pangloss and Candide are portrayed as the optimists. Despite this attitude, they both suffer a wide range of horrors, such as robberies, executions, disease, earthquakes, rapes, floggings etc. In the beginning of the story, Pangloss insists that there was justification for all the horrible things in the world. Most of these arguments were obviously ridiculous. For example, he claimed that syphilis needed to be transmitted from the New World to Europe so that Europeans could enjoy chocolate. These claims are absurd and are shot down by the realistic pessimism of more intelligent character such as the old woman, Martin, and Cacambo. All of which have established pessimistic conclusions about the nature of the world and humanity itself. Eventually, Pangloss’ optimism meets its end when he is forced to admit that he “doesn’t believe of word of” his own optimistic conclusions. This highlights the ridiculousness of optimism, and shows us that it’s never entirely true. At the end of the novella, Candide settles down with Pangloss, Cunégonde, and Cacambo. One would assume that Candide with be content with his life, since he finally overcame all the hardships he had to deal with during his expedition. However, Candide is still discontent with...
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