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Satire in Candide Essay

February 5th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the eighteenth century, the people of Europe began to open their eyes and see past the religious, political and philosophical dogma that had been blinding them for almost a thousand years. This era is now known as the Enlightenment and is a turning point in history that transformed the ancient world into its modern state. The fore-runners of this movement were artists and writers whose ideas, by way of their works, spread across the European continent and into other parts of the world. A country that symbolizes this movement is France, the home of the philosophes. The French novelist Voltaire satirizes certain institutions and beliefs in Candide in order to spread his messages across the globe. In his most famous work, Candide, he tells the tale of a young man’s adventures across the globe in search of his true love. While the title character travels, he learns to reject certain parts of society and the social structure. In Candide, Voltaire satirizes philosophy, romance, and religion.

Pangloss, a “professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology” (l.1), is a strong believe in the optimistic philosophy. He and his philosophy are as absurd as his title throughout the novel. He believes that things cannot be otherwise and that all is for the best. Upon his arrival in Lisbon, he and Candide witness an earthquake in which the city is left in ruins. To explain the phenomenon, Pangloss says that “it is impossible that things should be other than they are; for everything is right” (p.11). This gives the reader the feeling that Pangloss in foolish because the deaths of thousands of people cannot be for the greater good. The philosopher is hung at a auto da fe but does not die. A surgeon purchases his seemingly and wakes him up during an operation. After he reaches Constantinople, he enters a mosque and, because he is Christian, is arrested and forced to work in the galleys. Despite all of the things that happened to him, Pangloss still maintains that this is the “best of all possible worlds” (p.87).

Candide is madly in love with Cunegonde, the daughter of the Baron of Thuder-ten-Tronckh. In Candide, romance is what is the main cause of the characters’ hardships; in short, love is painful. In Chapter I, Candide and Cunegonde kiss and are caught by the Baron who chases Candide from the castle with “great kicks on the backside” (p.2), while Cunegonde is boxed on the ears by the Baroness. It is this great love which causes Candide to kill the Jew and the Inquisitor in Lisbon and to attempt to kill Cunegonde’s brother in South America. When Candide finally reunites with his love in Turkey, he is, ironically, no longer in love with her and is “seized with horror” (p.82) by her ugliness. Furthermore, he no longer considers her to be a woman, but rather an “object” (p.82). This shows that love is but a childhood fantasy and not long lasting. French romance is also satirized in Candide. The French are inconsistent as far as love goes and quickly forget past romances. The Marchioness of Parolignac is shocked when Candide does not fall in love with her for “a Frenchman would have said, ‘It is true that I have loved Miss Cunegonde, but seeing [the Marchioness], I think I no longer love her’” (p.61).

The country of El Dorado and the customs of its people bring about a religious debate that dates back to the time of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. In El Dorado, the people “do not pray to [God for] He has given them all they need” (p.44). Furthermore, all of the county’s inhabitants are priests and there are no monks who “dispute, govern, cabal, and who burn people that are not of their opinion” (p.44). The Inquisition is also a subject of satire in Candide. In Lisbon, the Inquisition captures various people in order to preform an auto da fe. The reasons include marrying one’s grandmother, rejecting bacon which larded a chicken, speaking one’s mind, and listening with an air of approbation to a philosophy the Inquisition rejected. In Constantinople, Pangloss enters a mosque and picks up a bouquet of flowers that a woman dropped, is identified as a Christian, and is ordered “a hundred lashes on the soles of the feet and sent to the galleys” (p.81). Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church, the Inquisition, and Islam are satirized in Candide.

Diction, exaggeration and symbolism transport the reader into Voltaire’s eighteenth century world. The reader is made to reject the philosophy of optimism, think badly of love at first sight and romance, and to look at the Church and Inquisition from the author’s perspective. Voltaire is very successful in bringing his point across to the reader and his work was one of the major influences on the Enlightenment and its followers. The works of Voltaire and his colleagues were a driving force in the formation of modern society.

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