Candide: A Critique Essay

913 words - 4 pages

Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoy satires; it is the genre I appreciate most for its employment of wit and militant irony. Upon delving into Candide by Voltaire I was lured in by its display of ridiculously brutal situations that dramatized the many evils of human experience. I think Voltaire wonderfully crafted this particular satire through his conglomeration of themes and symbolisms. Seemingly swiftly Voltaire takes the reader through a manifold of episodes of extreme cruelty that prove both horrible and vividly comic. Like other satires, this novella has many themes linked by one central philosophical theme traversing the entire work. This theme is a direct assault on the philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz, Alexander Pope and others. Leibniz held the view that the world created by God was the best possible world with perfect order and reason. Similarly, Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Man, argues that every human being is a part of a greater, rational, grand design of God.
Voltaire points out the absurdity of optimism through the use of irony, hyperbole, understatement, and especially flawed logic. Doctor Pangloss, a follower of Leibniz, attempts to use logic to explain the existence of evil, upholding such beliefs to the point of absurdity, justifying all events through cause-and-effect relationships. One example of this is when he contends that "things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: our noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles." All of his philosophies are rife with flawed logic, portraying him as a learned fool. Voltaire follows up by throwing dirt on Pangloss’s ideals with constant examples of human cruelty and natural disasters that apparently defy all explanation, particularly Pangloss'. For instance, the narrator reasons that the Baron is powerful because his castle has a door and some windows; the Baroness is respected because she weighs three hundred and fifty pounds. In chapter four Candide naively speculates that his departure from the castle precipitated Cunegonde's death. Though Pangloss attributes glorious things to romantic and physical love, he identifies it as the source of his miserable condition. Candide questions love itself, pointing out that his love for Cunegonde brought him nothing but trouble. Just as spectacles were the necessary consequence of noses, Pangloss sees his venereal disease as a necessary consequence of Europe's acquisition of New World commodities like chocolate and cochineal. After extolling the merits of his venereal disease, Pangloss tells Candide that it has made "marvelous progress" in Europe, particularly among soldiers, not unlike those who raped and killed Cunegonde, who he calls "honest", and...

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