The Range of Satire in Candide Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire's most classic work, Candide, is a satiric assault on most everything that was prevalent in society during the author's lifetime. In Candide, Voltaire offers the reader characters that partake in extremely exaggerated and outlandish events. Portrayal of these melodramatic events act as a form of satire, which Voltaire epitomizes throughout his reflections in Candide. Satire is a means for ridiculing something or someone in order to discredit it. Satire allows Voltaire to criticize through humor. As a result, instead of normal comedies which analyze the faults or weaknesses of its characters, Voltaire tries to make them as ridiculous as possible.
Through emphasizing the absurdity of a situation or one of the characters, satire almost adequately displays cruelty. Voltaire applies satire as a means of pointing out this cruelty and making it seem intolerable to the reader. Although many of Voltaire's ideas are exaggerated, he still provides some conceptual ones, which together provide a distinct outlook on life. Voltaire satirizes many points in Candide such as philosophy, war, and religion. Furthermore, he offers real historical events that reveal this style. The satirical style Voltaire chooses to implicate is used frequently in many literary works, especially of those in Voltaire's time.
Although Voltaire's use of satire may seem excessive at times, he still manages to accomplish a credible story which rationalizes order and ultimately, self-gratification. Perhaps the most significant reflection Voltaire satirizes is the philosophical optimism of Baron Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz, a very popular and sought-after German philosopher. Candide mocks Leibniz's beliefs in the form of Dr. Pangloss's visitation and optimistic belief that "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." In the story, irrational ideas are taught to the main character, Candide, about optimism versus the reality of the rest of the world. Pangloss is a devoted teacher to Candide and an optimist who claims that there is no effect without a cause, and that everything has a purpose. Pangloss was not meant to be a direct attack on Leibnitz.
Furthermore, Voltaire wanted people to realize how distorted Leibnitz's idea was. The na " ive character of Candide listens to Pangloss as he expresses his concept that, "Things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end" (Voltaire 1546). The name Candide originates from the Latin word candid us, which means white, symbolizing innocence. Perhaps Candide was meant to pursue the belief in optimism due to his innocence. However, by the end of the novel, the reader discovers how Candide reacts to the philosophy he depended on, which ultimately allows Voltaire to implicate the message he wants to get across to the reader. Candide allows the reader to literally laugh out loud at the absurdity of some of the characters, especially Pangloss.
Throughout the story, satirical references to Voltaire's optimistic theme contrast with natural catastrophes and human wrongdoing. For instance, when reunited with the diseased and dying Pangloss, who had contracted syphilis, Candide asks if the devil is at fault. Pangloss simply responds, "Not at all," (Voltaire 1552) then continuing to state that if there were no diseases, "We should have neither chocolate nor cochineal" (Voltaire 1552). The fact that Pangloss encounters all of the mishaps and misfortunes that come along his path and still maintains his philosophical optimistic views is humorous in itself. Pangloss's optimism cannot be tarnished, even after he becomes diseased, is burnt at the stake and is chained to oars as a slave.
He claims that all of these misfortunes are necessary in a right and just world. At the end of the novel when Candide is reunited with Pangloss, he asks him, "Now that you have been hanged, dissected, beaten to a pulp, and sentenced to the galleys, do you still think everything is for the best in this world?" (Voltaire 1614). Pangloss responds and pronounces, "I am still of my first opinion; for after all I am a philosopher" (Voltaire 1614). The reader is exposed to Pangloss's views as a means of revealing Voltaire's rebellion against such an attitude. Voltaire hated optimism and parodied it efficiently and brilliantly though Pangloss's character he specifically created for this reason.
Candide illustrates the means in which Voltaire could voice his dissatisfaction. With most philosophies of the eighteenth century, war was considered the most terrible and ignorant of all mistakes. So of course Candide had to include mockery of war, and the Seven Years War is a perfect example of that. The war in the beginning of the novel between the Bulgari and A bares is indeed a reference to the Seven Years War that occurred between France and Prussia while Voltaire was alive. This battle that Candide is forced to flee from and that leaves many men dead is actually based on the real conflict.
Voltaire uses this battle to show just how bloody and savage war really is. The narrator reflects that, "Nothing could have been so fine, so brisk, so brilliant, so well drilled as the two armies. The trumpets, the fifes, the oboes, the drums, and the cannon produced such a harmony as was never heard in hell" (Voltaire 1549). Obviously, the reader gains an insight that perhaps Voltaire is pro war. Voltaire satirizes war by correlating it with hell.
No one refers to war as fine and brisk, nor brilliant and well drilled. However, Voltaire effectively voices his opinions through the events he creates in Candide. In chapter twenty when Candide and Martin are at sea, they witness two vessels fighting. They saw, "Clearly a hundred men on the deck of the sinking ship; they all raised their hands to heaven, uttering fearful shrieks; and in a moment everything was swallowed up" (Voltaire 1588). "Well," Martin said, "That is how men treat one another" (Voltaire 1588). Candide further comments, "There's something devilish in this business" (Voltaire 1588).
Voltaire believes that war is a positive commodity and does an eminent job in showing it through the events in Candide. In chapter twenty-one, Candide asks Martin if he believed that men have always massacred one another and if they have always been, "Liars, traitors, ingrates, thieves, weaklings, sneaks, cowards, backbiters, gluttons, drunkards, misers, climbers, killers, calumniators, sensualists, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools? (Voltaire 1589) " The reader already knows that Voltaire completely despises optimism, and is now revealed that Candide is slowly becoming the archetype of Voltaire. Candide considers and evaluates whether things truly are for the best in the best of all possible worlds. What Candide witnesses in France allows Voltaire to demonstrate that neither everything nor everyone is perfect. Using an over-excessive amount of adjectives in describing men who harm others is yet another way Voltaire succeeds at ridiculing society.
Furthermore, Voltaire witnesses many of the conflicts he includes in his novel, therefore reassuring the reader that not everything in life is perfect. Voltaire also uses satire when he references religion in Candide. He mock religion because he believed that religious organizations were corrupt. The religion of Candide, and Voltaire, is Deism. Deism is an eighteenth century belief based solely on reason, that God created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving up no supernatural revelation. Voltaire satirizes religion when Candide arrives to the utopian society of El Dorado.
Candide comes across an old man that tells him about the religion of El Dorado. When Candide asks him how they pray to God, the old man declares, "We don't pray to him at all; we have nothing to ask him for since everything we need has already been granted; we thank God continuously" (Voltaire 1580). El Dorado is a perfect place, still religious but no bishops, priests, or monks to control people. How can a town be religious but have no priests? In El Dorado, there is no such thing as organized religion, no courts or prisons, and no poverty and complete equality. Even the king is treated like an average citizen. It would be wonderful to live in a world where everyone is treated like equals.
Although this will never be true, one can only dream in Candide, as Voltaire analyzes the imperfection in the world. Consequently, although the world of Candide is crammed with absurd and ridiculous events, the existence of El Dorado suggests that something better could exist if men were more in harmony with the nature of the world and of God. Nevertheless, parallel to Voltaire's views, Candide did not want to stay in El Dorado. For literal reasons he wanted to go back to Cunegonde, but more importantly, he could not reason with the views of religion the people of El Dorado practiced. Here, Voltaire suggests his idea that the random events that taking place throughout the course of his novel simply happen, uncontrolled by the existence of God. Voltaire realizes that humans seem to love the chase of finding perfection, but realistically don't care about the result.
For instance, Jehovah's witnesses see heaven as a glorified place and they spend all their dreams are to rush through their lives to be in heaven, but can they take their houses or cars to heaven? Most people, like Candide, search for perfection only to realize that its not all as it seems. Throughout Candide, Voltaire introduces historical reality to further promote his encompassing ridiculous views. The six deposed kings Candide and Martin have dinner with are real and actual embellishments that are now dispossessed. In chapter twenty-three, Candide witnesses Admiral Byng being executed because he did not kill enough enemies. In reality, there really was an Admiral Byng who was killed for not killing enough enemies. Candide comments that in his country, "It is useful from time to time to kill one admiral in order to encourage the others" (Voltaire 1599).
Voltaire references the Lisbon earthquake that actually occurred on November 1, 1755, just four years before writing Candide. In reality, this is a horrific predicament to be involved in. Here, Voltaire trivializes the fact that humans don't care about certain incidents unless they are actually affected by it. For instance, the events of September 11 th were intensely horrific. However, many people simply sat at their televisions watching the events unfold, not having any idea how the people in New York were affected by the event. It's humankind's natural instinct to not care about something that may affect other tremendously.
In indicating events that happened in history, Voltaire demands the reader to realize the events and terror that we still have today. He also demonstrates how people tend to only care about themselves because that's all they are realistically capable of. Although many exaggerations Voltaire implicates in Candide are outrageous, he still manages to very efficiently accomplish a credible story. The character of Candide acts as the facade in which Voltaire can stress and satirize his views. Candide was born to believe in optimism, but that optimism takes a battering when his family throws him out of his home, and embarks on an adventure in which he escapes near death experiences numerous amounts of times. Every encounter Candide comes across is one more step into his search towards enlightenment and wisdom.
By the end of the novel, Candide learns to stop debating philosophy and to simply live his life for better or for worse. What Candide learns and the events that occur let Candide gradually become his own person. He learned to accept life for what it had to offer, and that not everything had to be analyzed to decide whether it was good or bad. In the conclusion of Candide, Pangloss continues to philosophize, but Candide realizes that philosophy is useless.
Voltaire uses several gardens, including the original garden of Baron Thunder Ten Tronck's castle, the garden of El Dorado, the garden of the Old Turk, and Candide's final garden, allows him to reveal the moral aspect of Candide. A garden allows people to take care of the earth, and in turn allows people to receive food and comfort from it. Like everything in life, some gardens are better than others, and some gardens can be destroyed, similar to how Candide prevalently was throughout his adventures and mishaps. However, one can gain contentment while working in the garden or eating food from the garden. Voltaire solely wanted to show the reader that not everything in life is good. Life has its pros and cons, and just how the reader gets this insight, Candide does as well.
Even though Candide was learned to be optimistic, he slowly reached self-gratification. By integrating the gardens into Candide, Voltaire trivializes that people can only realistically take care of themselves. This is satirized in Pangloss, as he wanted to make the entire world a better place. By Candide assembling a beautiful garden full of flowers and lush landscaping, he was improving his own life. Realistically, the world can be a better place if everyone solely takes care of their own world.
Candide finally understands that happiness requires taking part of something he finds himself content in. This is important to the satire of the whole, because it is Voltaire's summation of all the criticisms, and all that is wrong with society. Candide is just an all out attack on society, and Voltaire successfully uses humor to illustrate his views. It is ultimately a final irony that the satirical journey of Candide comes to a close. "We must cultivate our garden" (Voltaire 1618). Five short words, Voltaire's final conclusion to the great comedy that is Candide..