Voltaire Exposes The Fallacy Of Optimism In Candide

1202 words - 5 pages

Voltaire was the French author of the novella Candide, also known as "Optimism" (Durant and Durant 724). Famous as a playwright and essayist, Voltaire’s Candide is the book where he tries to point out the fallacy of Gottfried William von Leibniz's theory of Optimism. He uses satire, and techniques of exaggeration to contrast highlight the evil and brutality of war and the world in general when men are meekly accepting of their fate. Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician of Voltaire's time, developed the idea that the world they were living in at that time was "the best of all possible worlds." This systematic optimism shown by Leibniz is the philosophical system that believed ...view middle of the document...

Candide is the son of the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh's sister. Candide grows up in the Castle of Westphalia and is taught by Dr. Pangloss, a man that Candide often looked to for insight and understanding. One of Panglos many great beleifs is that all is for the best and that good can be found in everything. Candide fell in love with a girl by the name of Lady Cunegonde who is described as having extravagant beauty.

Candide is abruptly exiled from the castle when found kissing the Baron's
daughter, Cunegonde. Devastated by the separation from Cunegonde, his true love,
Candide sets out to different places in the hope of finding her and achieving total
happiness. On his journey, he faces a number of misfortunes, among them being tortured
during army training, yet he continues to believe that there is a "cause and effect" for
everything. Candide is reunited with Cunegonde, and regains a life of prosperity, but
soon all is taken away, including his beloved Cunegonde. He travels on, and years later
he finds her again, but she is now fat and ugly. His wealth is all gone and so is his love
for the Baron's daughter. Throughout Candide, we see how accepting situations and not
trying to change or overcome obstacles can be damaging. Life is full of struggles, but it
would be nonproductive if people passively accepted whatever fate had in store for them,
shrugging off their personal responsibility. Voltaire believes that people should not allow
themselves to be victims. He sneers at naive, accepting types, informing us that people
must work to reach their utopia (Bottiglia 93).

In Candide, reality and "the real world" are portrayed as being disappointing. The
only thing that keeps Candide alive is his hope that things will get better. Even though the
world is filled with disaster, Candide has an optimistic attitude that he adopted from Dr.
Pangloss teachings. In spite of his many trails, Candide believes that all is well and
everything is for the best. Candide's enthusiastic view of life is contrasted with, and
challenged by the suffering which he endures throughout the book. Voltaire wrote this
book in a mocking and satirical manner in order to express his opinion that passive
optimism is foolish (Richter 134).

Voltaire's Candide is the story of an innocent man's experiences in a mad and evil
world, his struggle to survive in that world, and his need to ultimately come to terms with
it. All people experience the turmoil of life and must overcome obstacles, both...

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