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Voltaires candide 2

Voltaire's Candide is a philosophical tale of one man's search

for true happiness and his ultimate acceptance of life's

disappointments. Candide grows up in the Castle of Westfalia and

is taught by the learned philosopher Dr. Pangloss. Candide is

abruptly exiled from the castle when found kissing the Baron's

daughter, Cunegonde. Devastated by the separation from Cunegonde,

his true love, Candide sets out to different places in the hope of

finding her and achieving total happiness. The theme of Candide is

that one must strive to overcome adversity and not passively accept

it in the belief that all is for the best.

Candide's misfortune begins when he is kicked out of the

castle and experiences a series of horrible events. Candide is

unable to see anything positive in his ordeals, contrary to Dr.

Pangloss' teachings that there is a cause for all effects and that,

though we might not understand it, everything is all for the good.

Candide's endless trials begin when he is forced into the army

simply because he is the right height, five feet five inches. In

the army he is subjected to endless drills and humiliations and is

almost beaten to death. Candide escapes and, after being degraded

by good Christians for being an anti-Christ, meets a diseased

beggar who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. Dr. Pangloss informs him

that Bulgarian soldiers attacked the castle of Westfalia and killed

Cunegonde - more misery!

A charitable Anabaptist gives both Candide and Dr. Pangloss

money and assistance. Dr. Pangloss is cured of his disease, losing

one of his eyes and one of his ears. The Anabaptist takes them

with him on a journey to Lisbon. While aboard the ship, the

Anabaptist falls overboard in the process of rescuing a crew

member. Candide finds it more and more difficult to accept Dr.

Pangloss' principle that all is for the best.

In Lisbon there is an earthquake which kills thousands of

people, throwing the city into ruins. Later, Dr. Pangloss is hung

as part of an auto-de-fe. Candide is miraculously taken in by an

old woman and is brought to his love, Cunegonde. She tells him of

the torture she suffered and how she barely survived. She further

explains that she was "shared" by a Jew named Don Issachar and the

Grand Inquisitor. Candide kills the two men and escapes with

Cunegonde and the old woman.

At this point we begin to see Candide struggling and fighting

to make his existence worthwhile, in the hope that he and Cunegonde

would marry and live happily ever after. We saw Candide taking

matters into his own hands, instead of accepting his fate, when he

killed Cunegonde's two lovers. At this point one begins to see his

maturity from a naive young man into a realist.

Candide's travels take him to "the new world" where he hopes

that Dr. Pangloss' theory might be justified. Candide finds people

of wealth who are bored and still unhappy. When he finds a nation

of happy people he learns that they must be secluded from the rest

of the world to preserve their happiness. Cunegonde leaves Candide

for a man of wealth but that turns out to be the beginning of her

ruin. Candide is robbed of great wealth and, when he tries to help

others, he finds that they are not appreciative of his efforts.

Candide's doubts about Dr. Pangloss' theory continue to grow. He

learns to make his own happiness, battling hardships.

At the end of the book, Candide is reunited with Dr. Pangloss

who gave Candide details of how he survived his hanging. They go

off in search of formerly beautiful Cunegonde who had become fat,

ugly and bitter. Nevertheless, he had vowed to marry her and so he

does. The reader might expect that now Candide would be happy,

having realized his dream of marrying his own true love, Cunegonde

and being reunited with his teacher and mentor, Dr. Pangloss.

Candide is not happy! He no longer loves Cunegonde and no longer

believes in the principles of his teacher.

Throughout Voltaire's Candide we see how accepting a situation

and not trying to change or overcome obstacles is damaging. What

comes to mind, for me, is the attitude of many Jews during the

Holocaust. While there was mass murder and torture of innocent

people the world's countries did nothing. Even the victims

themselves rarely fought against the tyranny. If only people

accepted that they have the power, in many instances, to influence

their fate, not accept reality, waiting for things to change,

history might have turned out differently. We learn that in life

there will be many obstacles which can and should be overcome.

Life has its struggles but it would be a miserable place if people

passively accepted that everything was for the best, shrugging off

responsibility. We see, in contrast to Dr. Pangloss, Odysseus in

Homer's The Odyssey, is a man of great courage who masters all

situations and even searches for new adventures and challenges.

Voltaire believes that people should not allow themselves to

be victims. He sneers at naive, accepting types, informing us that

people must work (be active) to make their happiness.


by Voltaire


January 30, 1992

Source: Essay UK -

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