FORTUNE S FURIOUS FICKLE WHEEL Whatever is, is right, said Alexander Pope, and all is for the best echoed Pangloss of Voltaire s Candide (Lamm 175 ln 46). Pangloss believed that if something happens, then it is for a reason. He held that the, sometimes, bitter end effect was justified by the predestined and inevitable means cause. Pangloss represented the attitude of eternal optimism, which was prevalent during the Renaissance period.
However, the state of affairs of the Renaissance was pessimistic to say the least. Through the misadventures of Candide, we see that Fortune s wheel was pointed toward woe through most of the Renaissance period. Many of Candide s tragedies result from some of the great movements of the Renaissance which turned out to be not completely for the best. The first movement we shall look at is the increase in absolute and sovereign power.
During the Middle Ages, the feudal system was becoming less effective. There were many inconsistencies in the feudal system; in fact there was not even a common currency. As a result, there was a rise in sovereign power in order to keep everyone on the same page. Absolute power has its disadvantages (at least for the common man), as Candide got to experience first hand. One of the first strokes of ill fortune that Candide encountered is a meeting with the Bulgarian draft board. When Candide first meets the Bulgarians they are kind to him, and their friendliness seems to be the fruit of the best intentions of simple hospitality.
He is told, not only will we pay your reckoning, but we will never suffer such a man as you to want money. (Lamm 176 ln 109) He soon learned that their intentions were not indeed for the best, as Pangloss had carefully taught him. Their intentions were to have him serve their king, whom Candide neither had loyalty to, nor had even seen. Because of the Bulgarian king s absolute power Candide was made to serve in the army, an was beaten when he wished to exercise any personal choice.
The second movement we shall look at is the rise of Capitalism. Though Capitalism was formed in order to give every person a chance to succeed and become wealthy, it too had its shortcomings. Once Candide left Bulgaria, he ended up in Holland, a rich, Christian country. There, Candide expected to receive hospitality and mercy much like he had received at the Baron s castle.
However, he learned that Holland held Capitalism in higher regard than it did Christian charity, and he was not even able to get bread by begging for it. He was told rudely that if he continued to follow this trade they would confine him to the house of correction, where he should be taught to get a living. (Lamm 177 ln. 211) Later, Candide found himself in the city of El Dorado, where gold and gems were plentiful, but were considered as mere pebbles to the natives. He was effected by Capitalism and saw this as a prime opportunity to make himself rich by carrying loads of gold and gems back to his old country. But, Fortune frowned again on Candide, and most of his gold and jewels were lost in transport.
This caused Candide to exclaim My friend, you see how perishable are the riches of this world; there is nothing solid but virtue (Lamm 181 ln 722) Next, we shall examine Reformation of the church, and the calamity it brought to Candide. A long line of corrupt Popes cause the eventual Reformation of the Catholic Church. These Popes were mistrusted and even hated by many people. Candide had a run-in with one such person during his time in Holland.
He was asked whether he thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ or not. Candide was indifferent about this query, but the woman who proposed this question took his lack of an answer as support of the Pope and dumped a bucket of slop onto Candide s head. This hardship may seem minor in comparison to Candide s other strokes of bad luck, but it was certainly unwarranted. The last movement of the Renaissance that we shall explore is the rise of Humanism. Though this idea began with the most noble of intentions, it did not come to full fruition, and therefore became ineffective. Humanism believes in the value of the individual, but Candide could testify that it had not reached all people.
The last straw occurs when Candide lands on the coast of Surinam. There he meets a half-naked Negro who had lost one arm and one leg. But, the real tragedy and misfortune that had been imposed upon this unclothed man was that he had been dehumanized. In the eyes of his masters, and even his own mother, he was merely a piece of property. After hearing of the injustice the man had suffered, Candide cried out, Oh Pangloss! Thou hadst not guessed at this abomination; it is the end. I must renounce thy optimism.
(Lamm 182 ln. 760) With this statement, Candide declared that all is in fact not for the best. By and by, Candide finds himself in Turkey and Fortune s wheel pointing more toward the side of weal. But, he has seen too much come easily and go quickly to take his present condition for granted, and is content with cultivating his garden..