Candide Essay, Research Paper
Voltaire?s Philosophical Purpose
In Voltaire?s ?Candide?, the author uses the conclusion of the story to relate to the beginning to convey the message that philosophical rationalism is bad, and moreover optimism. Voltaire accomplishes this by piling tragic events one after another throughout the story rejecting Pangloss? idea that all is for the best. Furthermore, Candide concludes that both the teachings of Dr. Pangloss and Martin?s theory are both wrong and that ?we must cultivate our garden?. (Voltaire, 585).
To begin with, Voltaire creates the character of Dr. Pangloss to epitomize the extremes of an optimist. In the beginning, everyone and everything was well and Pangloss? theory that all is for the best made perfect sense. After escaping from the Bulgars, Candide proclaims, ?Master Pangloss was right indeed when he told me everything is for the best in this world; for I am touched by your kindness far more than by the harshness of that black coated gentleman and his wife.? This statement would make sense if all is well after this tragedy, but right after this statement, Candide runs into Dr. Pangloss himself, and finds that his mentor is perishing. This is an example of how tragic events compulsively take place throughout the story and furthermore shows how ridiculous it is when Pangloss provides a rational explanation for it. This repeatedly happens throughout the story, and is also why the reader fails to have any sympathy for what happens to the characters in the story. Pangloss? optimism can be harmless, such as when explains why we have noses, so that we can wear glasses; it may be callous, as it is when he justifies the drowning of Jacques in the harbor of Lisbon; it might be fantastic, as it is when he explains that the syphilis in him is great since it also brought chocolate and cochineal into the world; but no matter what form of optimism Pangloss takes on, it is consistent throughout the story. (Richter, 14). The consistency of Pangloss? theory of optimism is essential so that it can be contradicted by the consistency of tragic events that take place.
Voltaire ties idea of optimism with the opposite idea of pessimism to show how neither rationalities reflect the reality of what needs to be done. Martin, a character who shows up in the second half of the story encompasses a negative attitude and gives a negative explanation for everything that happens. For instance, Candide asks Martin. ?Do you think that men have always massacred each other, as they do today, that they have always been false, cozening , faithless, ungrateful, thieving, weak, inconstant, mean-spirited, envious, greedy, drunken, miserly, ambitious, bloody, slanderous, debauched, fanatic, hypocritical, and stupid?? Martin replies with, ?Do you think hawks have always eaten pigeons when they could find them?? ?Of course I do?, Candide answers. Then to this Martin responds, ?Well, if hawks have always had the same character, why should you suppose that men have changed theirs?? (Weitz, 12) In the last half of the story, Candide leans towards Martin?s philosophy of pessimism, as being slightly more acceptable. He finds that the permanent principle of evil sounds more logical than the optimism found above the torment he goes through. However towards the end of the story, Voltaire rejects both theories of pessimism and optimism and finds a more practical solution in the end. In the end, Candide finds that a Turk with a simple life as a farmer is happier than the Kings whom they dined with earlier in the tale. The Turk states, ? I have only twenty acres; I cultivate them with my children and the work keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty. (Voltaire, 584) These words had an astounding effect on Candide and left him to reason that he should make the best out of what he has. With this in mind, he makes the final judgement that ?we must cultivate our garden?. This statement proposes, ?let us work without reasoning: that is the only way to render life supportable.? (Tallentyre, 98) The meaning of this is that we should be thinking of more practical ways to live a better life, instead of living through disasters with hopes that everything is for the best.
In short, the conclusion of the story relates to the beginning because in the end, an innocent man who is brought in the belief in the ?everything is for the best? doctrine, goes through numerous hardships and terror which gives Pangloss? theory a lie. Also, Candide learns that through all the unbelievable events which occur, one should only make the best of it, instead of conjure up some rationality for it.