In the novel, Candide, Voltaire uses many symbols and motifs to satirize the basic ideas of optimism during the eighteenth century. However, Voltaire was not just able to sway the minds of his contemporaries, but he has also left a lasting impression on the modern world by satirizing tenets that have remained from his time to ours. One of the more important symbols in Candide is El Dorado. Voltaire successfully satirizes optimistic thought by using this South American city to represent the follies of two concepts that have been continually linked to optimism for over three hundred years: utopian societies and immense wealth.
The city of El Dorado is portrayed as a utopian society in every sense of the term. The city is strewn with precious gems, the food is good, the sleeping accommodations are free, and there is no religious persecution. Candide, after having these utopian attributes reaffirmed by the town sage, optimistically declares that this city is the “best of all possible worlds”. He even goes as far as to say that El Dorado is better than his homeland, a place he believed was also a utopia. “This is a far cry from Westphalia . . . had our friend Pangloss seen Eldorado, he would not have kept saying that the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh was the best place on earth; clearly one has to travel in this world.” (Voltaire, 47) Candide has now been to two utopian societies. In Westphalia, he was taught by the optimistic Pangloss that everything is for the best. However, Westphalia was isolated from the dangers of the outside world. After experiencing these dangers between his banishment and his arrival in El Dorado, Candide had begun to question the Panglossian philosophy. Upon arriving in the utopia of El Dorado, Candide begins to trust the optimistic view of the world again. At the same time, however, Candide undermines Pangloss’ knowledge when he says “one has to travel in this world”. Candide believes Pangloss holds onto his philosophy...
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