Candide Essay, Research Paper
Benjamin J. Koerner
Voltaire?s Social Commentary
In Voltaire?s Candide, Voltaire presents a story with a distinctive outlook on life.
He tells of a world that has gone mad and is laced with evil. Voltaire questions optimism,
philosophy, and absolutes. Through his story he exploits absolutes such as: justice,
happiness, true love, humanity, brotherhood, and many others. He leaves the reader
feeling that the world really is a cruel place and that happiness is hard to come by.
By using the main character Candide, a naive and innocent optimist, Voltaire
ridicules concepts such as: belief, philosophy, religion, and absolutes in society. Candide
and Pangloss are infact used to show the ludicracy in complete optimism. Most of the
remaining characters, especially Martin are rational and pessimistic. But, Pangloss shows
how ridiculous optimism is through his irrational and inane feeling that everything is for
the better even after being hanged, dissected, and beaten.
Voltaire also makes commentary upon true love and happiness when Candide and
Martin discuss the joyful couple they see. Martin assures Candide that the couple are
hiding their pain and Candide argues that they are content, yet upon further review we
find out how really depressed the couple is. In addition to the topic of happiness and true
love Candide marries Cunegonde even though he is no longer is in love with her and she
cannot make him happy. This may prove Martin?s theory that ?man was born to suffer.?
In conclusion, what looks or sounds like true love and happiness, is only a front for
depression and anguish.
Voltaire also debunks the absolutes of brotherhood and humanity in many
episodes of the story. For example the Portuguese Jews hanged simply because they
chose not to eat the bacon with their meal and when the good hearted Anabaptist Jacque
is killed upon the sinking vessel. These examples Voltaire has chose to create convey the
feeling that the world is cold and lacks a recognizable purpose.
At the end Cadide returns from the cold world and removes himself from the
corruption of society only to isolate himself in his work. Only here can he safeguard
himself from the evils abroad. This is the only place he could find happiness even though
he searched for it through out the world and was rudely awakened finding himself
discontent and craving something else.