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Analysis of the Overall Context of Voltaire’s “Candide”

The philosophical and satirical story of the renowned famous French writer of the Age of Enlightenment Candide was created in the late 50s of the 18th century. One of the most glorious works of Voltaire has an unexpected destiny. It was forbidden for a long time, and the writer himself at first confessed his authorship, then refused it. Candide is a story that, at first glance, may seem nothing more than fun and entertaining. Only upon a detailed consideration, one can discover a deep philosophical thought that Voltaire sought to convey to his contemporaries.

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The name of the protagonist of Voltaire’s story Candide is translated from French as impartial, ingenious, pure, and artless. In the beginning, Candide is described as “a young man whom nature endowed with the most pleasant disposition; his whole soul was reflected in his face; he judged things quite sensibly and kindly” (Voltaire 7). The novel images the story of all kinds of afflictions and misfortunes that Candide encounters in his wanderings worldwide. Therefore, Candide is an eyewitness and a sacrifice of all the scourges of society.

The beginning point for creating Candide was a real historical event – the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 when the prosperous city was ruined and many people died. The protagonist’s journey across Europe, South America, and the Middle East is the basis for the revelation of Voltaire’s world order. The author shows his time’s historical and cultural realities and amazing legends, for example, the beautiful country of El Dorado. Thus, the mythical condition of overall happiness and complacency becomes in the story a stonewall for the real world.

In Candide, the central aspect is not the heroes’ private life, but the social order criticism, a wicked satire on the church, royalty, and feudal wars. Nevertheless, the meaning of Voltaire’s irony is ambiguous. Voltaire parodies not only a love-adventure novel but also the genre of the bourgeois book of the 18th century, especially English ones. In such works, for the first time, the person’s life began to be represented without any comic grotesque, but as something great, relevant, and deserving poetry. On the contrary, Voltaire was convinced that personal life could not be a severe subject of art. Thus, throughout the story’s plot, social order criticism and satire are central to describing events and characters.

Laws of logic and life in the novel contradict each other, determining its composition. The scenes in Candide are connected as an adventure novel based on accidents. People are grains of sand, which the flow of life carries in various ways. Every episode is sudden for both the characters and the reader. An example is an episode when Candide and Pangloss travel from Holland to Lisbon. Everything that happens to them is a circuit of contingencies, including a storm and an earthquake in Lisbon. However, each event simultaneously has its logic, and it is predefined, submitted to a philosophical idea – the debunking of the philosophy of optimism.

Thus, the appeal to outstanding social and moral issues pervades the whole novel. Voltaire condemns Leibniz’s theory of pre-established harmony, considering that people should interfere in life to alter it and set a fairer order. Voltaire book’s last words were: “But you have to cultivate your garden,” for the world is insane and cruel (Voltaire 98). Thus, the composition Candide, a characteristic feature of which is satire, covers many significant social problems, including philosophical ones.

Work Cited

Voltaire. Candide. West Margin Press, 2020.

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