French Literature 026
Voltaire's Criticism of Enlightened Beliefs
Through The Eyes of Candide
Voltaire, one the Enlightenment's greatest leaders was well known for his use of satire to expose and criticize vices of the 18th century. Through his writing, Voltaire successfully uses irony and parody as a means to satirize what he believes is wrong with 18th-century life. In his novel Candide, Voltaire focuses on many topics, specifically the pitfalls and dangers of optimism, the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, and political injustice. Although humorous, the irony and parody that exists in the novel serve the purpose of exposing the Enlightenment’s widely accepted views of political, philosophical, and religious practices through the eyes of Candide.
Voltaire had an appreciation for the more liberal and free societies which he witnessed in Britain. He believed that the political system in France was corrupt and favored the aristocracy while undermining commoner’s rights. In Candide, Voltaire parodies the Enlightenment’s magnificent view of lords as he describes the Baron of Westphalia:
The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but even windows, and his great hall was hung with tapestry. He used to hunt with his mastiffs and spaniels instead of greyhounds; his groom served him for huntsman; and the parson of the parish officiated as his grand almoner. They called
Click here to unlock this and over one million essaysGet Access
Toward the beginning of the 18th century, a new ideology began to take hold of Europe. It was during this time that a radical and critical revolution took place to bring about the use of rational thought and enlighten the people about their own beliefs and values; thus igniting the period of Enlightenment. In this period many people followed the teachings of their forefathers, such as Socrates, who was considered a figure of skepticism and rational thought. Challenging all views and theorems was the main point of this new ideology. Voltaire, a very powerful and influential figure among the writers of the 18th century, was known for his rejection of religion and a devout deist. In one of his most famous works, Candide, he
Voltaire is considered as one of the greatest Enlightenment writers in France for his extensive use of literary elements to convey his message. Voltaire satirizes different aspects of society to expose their absurdity in most of his writings. In Candide, Voltaire, by employing situational irony, mocks the blindness of society, magnifying the narrow-minded human nature.
The philosophical works of Voltaire, such as Candide, influenced the beginning of the French Revolution, promoting new ideas and concepts. Voltaire used both wit and sarcasm to prove his points against injustice and cruelty. Voltaire was exiled to England for many years, and while there, he became influenced by the English government systems, associated himself with Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke, and Sir Francis Bacon. Voltaire wrote many well known works, but Candide is the most widely read and considered to have the most profound impact on the French Revolution. In Candide, Voltaire uses his character Pangloss to imitate the extreme ways of Alexander Pope, another
In his work, Candide, Voltaire uses satire as a means of conveying his opinions about many aspects of European society in the eighteenth century. Voltaire successfully criticizes religion, the military, and the philosophy of optimism.
Even though many people practiced this doctrine Voltaire did not aside with it instead, he implanted doubts on the chances of achieving true happiness and real conformism. Voltaire’s opinion was that one could not achieve true happiness in the real world but only experience it in an utopia. With the many hardships that Candide goes through ultimately leads him to abandon his attitude of optimism. Candide’s misfortunes and adversities often contrasted with his optimistic view on life. Noticeably, Voltaire uses this satirical piece as a way to criticize this exaggerated optimism. This tale as stated by William Bottiglia, “ Has had a great effect on modern writers who confront mankind’s inhumanity to fellow human beings by presenting the human condition absurdly, ironically, and humorously...” (Bottiglia 112).
oltaire’s Candide provides an Enlightenment religious and social critique of the Old Regime though satire. In Candide, Voltaire depicts the hypocrisy of the religious leaders during the Old Regime time period along with the criticizing the idea that reason can overcome social turmoil.
In its time, satire was a powerful tool for political assault on Europe's corrupt and deteriorating society. Voltaire's Candide uses satire to vibrantly and sarcastically portray optimism, a philosophical view from the Enlightenment used to bury the horrors of 18th century life: superstition, sexually transmitted diseases, aristocracy, the church, tyrannical rulers, civil and religious wars, and the cruel punishment of the innocent.
Voltaire’s satire contains a strong sense of witful irony and parodies meant to elicit disgust at the topics he is criticizing. “Candide’s” sense of satire is largely derived from the Juvenalian satire which was created by the Roman satirist Juvenal. By using absurdist and ironic images of characters, satirists intend to invoke disgust or laughter at a topic to the point where it is rejected a legitimate. Thi is the point with Voltaire’s mockery of optimism in “Candide”.
In “Candide,” Voltaire’s satiric theme is broad and varied. Although the most interesting satire is the one on religion, especially the utopia in which Candide starts off the story in, the first in importance is philosophical optimism, specifically Pangloss’s philosophy which in the novel this philosophical optimism seems to represent mankind's overall and overused optimism as means to copping with tragedy or loss. Pangloss’s philosophy is both the most important point for debate among the novel’s characters and one of the main targets of Voltaire’s satire. Pangloss is inevitably humorous “Pangloss gave instruction in metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology" his character is very predictable and superficial, his so called doctrine on optimism which is voiced out repeatedly that even great evil leads to good is opposed gross absurdity with absurdity. "It is clear, said he, that things cannot be
Candide is a reflection of the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Voltaire’s novel is a satire of the Old Regime ideologies in which he critiques the political, social, and religious ideals of his time.
One institution that Voltaire takes aim at in Candide is the institution of the military. Voltaire attacks of the military using dialogue between Candide and Martin as
Candide is a fictional satire of the optimism many philosophers had for life in general during the mid 1700’s written in response to Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man. Written by Voltaire, the literary alias of Francois-Marie Arouet, the satire covers religion, the wealthy, love, why people thought natural disasters occurred and especially, philosophy. The novel even goes on to make fun of the art of literature by giving ridiculous chapter headings. Just about everything Voltaire put into Candide is designed to question and satirize real world injustices. In effect Candide is the 18th century equivalent of a modern day sitcom (Shmoop).
Voltaire’s Candide is a satirical fiction that was meant as both an insult and a criticism to the wealthy nobility and the Catholic Church. Voltaire, major voice during the Enlightenment period, had a wide spread influence from England and France to Russia. Candide was massively circulated throughout Europe. Voltaire used Candide to offer his opinion of what was wrong with society: being that the wealthy were ungrateful, selfish people and the church was a ruthless, maniacal super power.
Voltaire's Candide seems to display a world of horror, one filled with floggings, rapes, robberies, unjust executions, disease, natural disasters, betrayals and cannibalism. Pangloss, the philosopher, has a constant optimistic view throughout the entire novel even despite all of the cruelty in the world. While looking back on the book I couldn't think of many characters that displayed admirable qualities. Even though Pangloss stuck to his views that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, which is admirable, he is stupid and naive to still believe this after everything he and his family goes through. It was quite hard for me to find admirable characters within Voltaire's