François-Marie years, earning himself the name as

François-Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire, published Candide in 1759 in Geneva, Switzerland. Voltaire was a French Enlightened thinker that was most known for his intelligence and clever style of writing. The Enlightenment was a time where philosophers tried to take a scientific approach to understand the concerns of humanity. He wrote works in about every literary form, from plays to novels to poetry including some of his most famous works, Candide and Letters Concerning the English Nation. The topics of his writing varied from science to philosophy to politics. His writing career went on for 60 years, earning himself the name as “one of the most foundational figures of the Enlightenment”1. He was a public supporter of social reform and his ideas were crucial to the American and French Revolution. Many of his famous works were banned at the time due to their provocative nature and how they contradicted wide spread ideas, but these works are still true and relevant today because of their ideas on freedom of religion, speech, and the separation of church and state. This critique was assigned to students to increase historical thinking skills, writing, and reading skills. This assignment forces students to critically think about the strategies and methods used by the author. This book is useful to the course of studies of a student in that it creates a deeper understanding of the 18th century writing style, what is satire and how it is used, and the advancing ideas of philosophers. It also shows us the social, economic, and political standpoints of the time and how they affected Enlightened thinkers. Voltaire wrote Candide as a satire of the then common radical optimism of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, exemplified through the character Pangloss. Specifically, Gottfried believed that they were living in a world entirely created by God and because the mind of God was the greatest and good-natured, we had to be living in the best imaginable world. Voltaire didn’t agree with this extreme optimism and thought that it was a foolish and impractical way of thinking. It is believed by some that he wrong Candide as a response to Gottfried. He used Candide to challenge these ideas and to attack the way the church was monopolizing power. Voltaire used writing in order to spread enlightened ideas that he was exposed to as an adolescent. Throughout Candide Voltaire expresses his overarching message of pragmatism. He conveys that you must be practical and get through your own life without worrying much of anyone else. At the end of the end of the book Candide says, “but we must cultivate our garden,”1 supporting the idea of being self-reliant and realistic. He also suggests the message of the futility of war and importance of separation of church and state. Lastly, he shows how no man is good nor evil but everyone is both. Voltaire likely directed Candide to young adults of the time period who were uneducated on the Enlightened ideas he was trying to convey. Voltaire would have directed it towards young adults because he knew that the upcoming generation could make a change in society and politics at that time. As Voltaire was coming of age, although the French aristocracy was in total power, the upbringing of the Enlightenment allowed him to be introduced to enlightened ideas and the “importance of reason and scientific objectivity.”2  Voltaire was hoping to inform and entertain his audience through Candide. He informed his readers by addressing real world events of the time period such as the Seven Years’ War and the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. As stated previously, he wanted to inform people on enlightened ideas. He satirized his novel in order to entertain his readers by ironically contrasting devastating and disastrous events with humor. Voltaire grew up in an upper-middle class family with access to a well-rounded Jesuit education. The Jesuits believe “that reform in the Catholic Church began with reform of the individual.”1 This likely inspired the idea of cultivating one’s own garden, as said at the end of the book, because it shows you must figure out who you are and your own morals before worrying about other people. The majority of France at this time lived in extreme poverty and were uneducated. Being that one of the main Jesuit beliefs is to help the impoverished, he was inspired to write and educated the people that were not as privileged as him. Voltaire shows his bias against warfare in the novel when Candide is escapes the military, after being drafted because he dislikes the army and how he is treated. Voltaire’s writing is persuasive and makes the audience believe what he is saying because of the style and details he uses. When talking about the military and or warfare, he use vivid language showing the struggle and horrid circumstances that it encompassed. This use of language and events in the book leads the reader to have a negative outlook on warfare. Another prominent bias shown throughout Candide is his disapproval of religion. Besides in the fantasy world, El Dorado, religion is shown lacking integrity and crooked. Religious characters in Candide such as the Protestant minister, the Inquisitor, and the Jesuit Baron were depicted as more selfish and greedy than the non religious characters in the novel. This may influence the reader to turn against religion because of how it is displayed in the novel. By reading the novel, Candide, I was able to identify major themes that occurred throughout the book. One of the most prominent themes shown throughout the novel was religious hypocrisy. Voltaire satires organized religion by showing some of the religious figures in the book as corrupt and hypocritical. The religious leaders shown in the novel go against their preachings and are cruel to those who disagree with them on even the smallest scale. Voltaire included this theme in his novel to express his negative opinions on the Catholic church and expose their hypocritical nature that he did not agree with. For example, the novel encounters an old lady who is the daughter of the Pope. Being a Catholic Priest should not have a child because intercourse is against the morals of a priest in the Catholic religion. Candide and Pangloss are challenged throughout the book by experiencing horrific events that magnify the worst things in life such as rape, torture, slavery, etc. Later in the book they cross paths with the old woman who tells them her story of being raped, enslaved, and a subject to cannibalism and goes into speaking about her beliefs on suicide. Being that the old woman was the daughter of the Pope, she was already a representation of rebellion from the church. The obvious answer, most likely given by most at the time, was that suicide was against the morals of the church and therefore should not be done unless you are prepared for eternity in hell. Being that she was already the daughter of a Pope she did not even consider this idea and due to her experiences she perhaps does not believe in God or an afterlife. She says, “A hundred times I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more.”1 The rest of the paragraph is quite condescending but this is the hope that shines through. It’s the fact that people stay alive because they love it, not out of fear or regret.  Prior in the book, Cunegonde can not find her guns or diamonds and feels she has been robbed. The old woman has a suspicion that the culprit is reverend Franciscan. The old woman says,  “I strong suspect it was that reverend Franciscan who slept in the same inn as us last night in Badajoz; God prevent me from making rash judgments, but he passed through our room twice, and he set off long before us.”2 Hypocrisy is shown here because although Franciscan had taken the vow of a life of poverty and gave up all material objects he is showing the adverse. As mentioned before, the religious figures in the book were brutal to heterics, people who went against what the church was preaching. They went as far as persecuting the heterics, which is again, is against the principles of Christians. Another theme I noticed while reading the novel Candide was Optimism. Voltaire disagreed with philosophical optimism and used satire to show this. He included this theme to inform people that it is a foolish way of thinking and that life should be handled in a more pragmatic way. Voltaire developed the character Pangloss, who deeply believed in the optimistic philosophy, “there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause and that in this best of all possible worlds…Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles… Consequently, those who say everything is well are uttering mere stupidities; they should say everything is for the best.”1 This is a very present theme throughout the novel and is an example of how Voltaire uses satire to get his message across. Pangloss’s idea is ultimately an example of certain philosophers during that time that believed that the world was purely good because God was purely good and had absolute power. They thought the idea of an imperfect God was foolish. Continuing, they thought that the people only see evil because they don’t fully understand God’s purpose and his dominating force therefore they are not aware that all the bad things in the world have a greater purpose. This quote also supports the idea that Pangloss really doesn’t know the difference between cause and effect. He states that God made noses for spectacles but obviously, it is the other way around. Voltaire does this to point out the flaws of the Enlightenment and is pointing out the wrong behind philosophical optimism. To further explain this Candide says to Pangloss, “‘Here is an end of the matter. I find myself, after all, obliged to renounce thy Optimism.'”2 Candide says this after a while of their journey and means that there is no way to look positively on all the evil, devastating events they have encountered. Pangloss continued to say how everything happens for a reason, good and bad. Pangloss and Candide have contradicting opinions but they were still able to maintain a close relationship throughout their journey.My initial reaction to the book was that I didn’t love it but it did it’s job and got the messages across that it was intended to. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the style and language Voltaire wrote with because of its complex manner. After re-reading it I was able to dig deeper and discover the underlying themes and messages of the book. I respect the way he used irony to convey messages and show his views on life and philosophy. To portray Candide’s mental development and journey Voltaire mocked the idea of optimism and that no matter how bad the situation is, it was meant to happen for a reason. In the text this is stated as the, “best of all worlds,”1 By using mockery it shows that Voltaire was poking fun at the idea of optimism and didn’t believe in this idea himself. Voltaire ultimately fulfilled his purpose in writing Candide. He spread his enlightened ideas throughout France and revealed the problems with the Roman Catholic Church and extreme optimism. The ideas he spread affected the French and American Revolution and the course of history and science to follow. The way Voltaire geniously used satire was very interesting because it shows how he knew how to subtlety use irony to convey his messages. It was interesting how he used storytelling and irony to create this revolutionary novel which is still being read 200+ years later. Although these all rain true, I found that the language was uninteresting. It was hard to read and comprehend what he was trying to say. I found that he over explained simple points and dragged out ideas that didn’t need as much explanation. Also since the book was translated some lines were hard to comprehend.  Overall, Candide was definitely a worthwhile read. It made me have a greater understanding of satire, life in the 18th century and the philosophical ideas that were being spread. I learned more about the Enlightenment and how the ideas from then are still prevalent today and have impacted life as we know it. Candide enhanced my subject knowledge by showing life in the 18th century, both good and bad, through a starical storytelling structure. Rather than a textbook with straight facts and outline, I was able to understand the thoughts and emotions behind the different perspectives of people and decisions people made at this time. This work enhanced my abilities as a scholar because it developed my understanding of satire and the language and writing styles of the 18th century. This assignment also taught me how to pull apart a text and author in order to find deeper themes and meanings within the work. I would recommend this to another student because, although it is a challenge, it informed me on the Enlightenment, the philosophies that were being discussed and uncovered and the corrupt nature of the condition of life during this time. Along with that it improved my reading comprehension, writing and critical historical thinking skills. The student must be ready to fully invest in the work and really dig into what Voltaire is saying, rather than skim through it.