Candide Voltaire Optimism Essay Research Paper Candide

Candide Voltaire Optimism Essay, Research Paper Candide – Voltaire’s Writing Style In Candide, Voltaire uses many writing techniques which can also be found in the works of Cervantes, Alighieri, Rabelais and Moliere.

Candide Voltaire Optimism Essay, Research Paper

Candide – Voltaire’s Writing Style

In Candide, Voltaire uses many writing techniques which can also

be found in the works of Cervantes, Alighieri, Rabelais and Moliere.

The use of the various styles and conventions shows that, despite the

passage of centuries and the language differences, certain writing

techniques will always be effective.

One common literary technique is the author’s use of one or more

of his characters as his ‘voice’ to speak out the authors views on a

certain subject. For instance, in Moliere’s Tartuffe, the author uses

the character of Cleante to speak out against religious hypocrites

(page 1419, lines 99-102):

Nothing that I more cherish and admire

Than honest zeal and true religious fire.

So there is nothing that I find more base

Than specious piety’s dishonest face.

In Candide, Voltaire makes use of several characters to voice his

opinion mocking philosophical optimism. On page 1594, Candide is

asking a gentleman about whether everything is for the best in the

physical world as well as the moral universe. The man replies:

…I believe nothing of the sort. I find that everything goes wrong in

our world; that nobody knows his place in society or his

duty, what he’s doing or what he ought to be doing, and that outside

of mealtimes…the rest of the day is spent in useless

quarrels…-it’s one unending warfare.

By having this character take on such a pessimistic tone, he

directly contradicts the obviously over-optimistic tone of Candide.

In the conclusion (page 1617) an old turk instructs Candide in the

futility of needless philosophizing by saying that “…the work

keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.” In each

of these examples, the character chosen by the author comes across as

a reasonable and respectable person, making the author’s point of view

seem just as reasonable and respectable.

Another technique Voltaire uses in Candide is that of taking

actual people and events and weaving into his work of fiction. He

often does this to mock or ridicule his political and literary

adversaries, as shown in the conversation between the abbe’ and the

Parisian supper guests (page 1593). The abbe’ mentions two critics who

in Voltaires time have criticized his work. The critics are referred

to as boring and impudent by the supper guests. In much the same

manner Alighieri, in The Divine Comedy, has placed many of his enemies

in various circles of Hell. In one instance (page 797), Dante himself

pushes one of his political enemies back down into the swampy waters

of the river Styx. In Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais mentions a

series of text books which are a part of the sort of educational

curriculum that he is satirizing. He ridicules their use in that it

takes Gargantua so long to learn simple tasks such as memorizing the

alphabet. In each of these cases, the authors are able to speak out

against people or practices in a way less confrontational than public

speaking, as well as state their opinion in a form where they cannot

be immediately contradicted.

Voltarie has occasion to use the comedic style of exaggeration

in Candide, such as the Baron’s sister refusing to marry Candide’s

father because he can only prove seventy-one quarterings of his family

tree. Later, Candide is sentenced to receive a flogging for having

deserted the Bulgar army. He must make thirty-six passes through the

gauntlet of two thousand troops. More outlandish examples of

exaggeration can be found in Gargantua and Pantagruel, such as the

size of Gargantua’s mare (as big as six elephants) or the weight of

his dumbbells (each one is eight hundred and five tons). Beside being

entertaining to read, these exaggerations serve to point out the

ridiculousness of an ideal by showing it in a preposterous light.

The format in which Candide is written closely resembles that of

Cervante’s Don Quixote. In both books, the authors have chosen to name

each chapter in a descriptive style; the name of the chapter tends to

be a brief description of the action that is to take place within it.

Compare chapter three of Don Quixote, “Of the amusing manner in which

Don Quixote had himself dubbed a knight.” with chapter three of

Candide, “How Candide Escaped from the Bulgars, and What Became of

Him”. Alighieri uses this method in The Divine Comedy as well,

although on a much less descriptive level. Each of the cantos in his

Divine Comedy has short three or four word descriptions of what

happens in the canto. Many chapters in Candide end with some sort of

lead-in to the next chapter, giving the book a certain feel similar to

today’s television serials. This method is used in Don Quixote

(chapter 8), but in a much more dramatic fashion. Just as Don Quixote

is about to go into battle with the Biscayan, the action is abruptly

halted by the narrator who describes how the ‘original’ author had not

finished the story, but that a ’second’ author had picked up where the

first left off and the action continues in the next chapter. While

Cervantes may have been poking fun at this method by useing it in such

an exaggerated manner, both he and Voltaire use it effectively to keep

the reader’s attention and make him want to read on to find

out what happens next.

In Candide, the story is written such that the main character

and usually one or more companions have set out on a great journey

filled with adventures. It is in this journey that Candide’s outlook

on life is challenged; he is forced to become less optimistic about

this world being the best of all possible worlds. Similarly, in The

Divine Comedy, Dante goes on a journey as well; through Hell,

Purgatory and Heaven with his guide Virgil. Through his travels he is

shown the error of other men’s ways, serving to remind him of his own

sins and to put him back on the right path in life. In Don Quixote,

the would-be knight-errant sets out with his sidekick Sancho Panza on

an adventure too; determined to right wrongs and save damsels in

distress. Through the harsh realities of life he eventually comes out

of his insanity and sees that his way of life in his modern world is

outdated and obsolete. In placing their characters in these adventures

the authors demonstrate that, through experience with real-world

situations, these men trying to live by some outdated or far-fetched

ideal soon learn the error in their reasoning and adapt themselves to

the author’s way of thinking.

From these examples it can be seen how Voltaire, a writer from

the Enlightenment period, uses methods from writers centuries before

him to effectively communicate his point to his contemporary readers.

The times and issues may be quite different, but the writing style

works just as well for him as it did all the way back to the twelfth