Voltaire`S Candide Essay, Research Paper
Candide is a reflection of the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Voltaire?s novel is a satire of the Old Regime ideologies in which he critiques the political, social, and religious ideals of his time.
A common intellectual characteristic of the Enlightenment was anti-feudalism. Philosophers were against the separations in the Old Regime and pushed for equality among human beings. Voltaire parodies the pompousness of the nobility several times throughout his novel. As we are introduced to the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, Voltaire describes his castle as luxurious, even though it is inferred that Westphalia is only a moderate estate. Although the name may sound important, Thunder-ten-tronckh lacks the luxury of nobility. The Baron lives off of the labor of others, justifying it by his birth into the right of power. Furthermore, the Baron?s sister refuses to marry Candide?s father because he has one less quarterling than she on his coat of arms. The difference in their lineage is minute; however, the Baroness refuses to marry someone that is less important than she is. Candide himself also experiences a similar incident. The Baron?s son refuses to allow Candide to marry his sister, Cunegonde. Although Candide rescues Cunegonde from several misfortunes, the Baron feels that he is unworthy of someone with such status. In his display of noble arrogance, Voltaire suggests that the accident of birth is meaningless. He continues his parody of the nobility by introducing Don Fernando, the governor of Buenos Ayres. Don Fernando carries with him a long list of names to accentuate his power and wealth. In the days of the Old Regime, this was custom in order to recognize nobility. However, Voltaire portrays Don Fernando as a predator, a liar, and a cheat. He shows that even though Don Fernando may be characterized as wealthy and powerful, he is not superior to others. Finally, Candide?s experiences in the army suggest Voltaire?s bitterness toward the aristocracy. In every war Candide participates in, the common people suffer the consequences of the nobility?s actions.
Another characteristic of the Enlightenment was that of optimism; however Voltaire was a pessimist. Voltaire uses Candide to criticize the Enlightenment view that reason can overcome social chaos. Pangloss, Candide?s devoted friend, is an optimist who claims that there is no effect without a cause, and that everything is made with a purpose. Pangloss is a parody of metaphysical philosophy. Enlightenment thinkers wanted tangible, concrete evidence to back their arguments. Pangloss based his arguments on nothing. Voltaire portrays him as na?ve, scorning him for not experiencing and studying the world before he becomes firmly planted in his ideas. Even after Pangloss experiences the evil ways of the world, he refuses to change his philosophy. Pangloss would rather preach something attractive to the ear rather than reality. Candide?s servant Cacambo also speaks of false optimism as he tries to console Candide over the loss of Cunegonde. He says that women are never at a loss and that God takes care of them. However, Cunegonde and the Old Woman both experienced brutality and suffering many times over in their lifetime. Cunegonde was bought, sold, and treated like a possession throughout the novel. She and the Old Woman were left vulnerable to molestation and treated like objects. The only hint of optimism in Voltaire?s novel is when Cacambo and Candide stumble upon the country of Eldorado. However, this optimism is quickly distinguished when the two men foolishly trade such a perfect society for jewels, gold, power, and influence. Eldorado is a country in which there is no organized religion, no courts or prisons, no poverty, and complete equality. Even the king is treated as a normal citizen. Candide overlooks the fact that this is a perfect society because of the ideals they practice, and believes that the riches are the most important aspect. Voltaire further indicates that such a utopia can never be achieved by describing Eldorado as a world that cannot be found. Candide and Cacambo could never return after they left.
Voltaire introduces many villains to depict the hypocrisy of the Christian Orthodox church. First, there is the Grand Inquisitor and his acts of faith. These auto-de-fe?s are barbaric, superstitious, and offer only metaphysical relief to the evils of society. For example, to ward off another earthquake the Grand Inquisitor chooses to hang, whip, and burn a select group of people. However, the earthquake returned. Never the less, these people were tortured because they were thought to have rebelled against the doctrine of the church. Candide was whipped because he was thought to agree with Pangloss?s teachings. The Grand Inquisition also threatened an act of faith to frighten Don Issachar into allowing him to share Conegonde. Another hypocritical church official is the Franciscan who steals Conegonde?s jewels. Before a Franciscan can enter the order, they are required to take a vow of poverty. In stealing the jewels, the theft was breaking this religious vow. The Old Woman was the illegitimate daughter of a Pope. He not only broke his vows of celibacy, but he refused to protect his daughter from society. Also, while Candide was in France he met an abbe. The abbe was involved in things such as gambling, extortion, cheating, and stealing. He also promoted loose morals and involved Candide in these practices by introducing him to a seductress. The abbe only showed kindness to Candide because of the jewels and gold he possessed. Finally, Giroflee is introduced as a satire of the church. Friar Giroflee has hired Pacquette for prostitution services. In a monastery, monks are supposed to refrain from participating in any secular activities, especially prostitution.
Voltaire cleverly parodies the events of the Old Regime in his novel, Candide. With wit and sarcasm, the ideologies of the Enlightenment philosophers are candidly displayed through fictitious, absurd characters. The entire novel is a satire of the political, social, and religious ideals that Voltaire so tirelessly advocated against.