Candide: Candide and Possible Worlds Essay

Submitted By whitesoxfan12389
Words: 1064
Pages: 5

Take Off Your Rose-Colored Glasses
The movie theater: a common setting around the world where people of all ages go to relax and enjoy a movie of their choosing. One of the most popular types of movies that people tend to see is a comedy. A good comedy allows people to unwind while enjoying a good laugh. The library served this function during the 18th century, when writers satirized ideas through books and plays. Voltaire was one of these writers, and found it enjoyable to poke fun through the use of literature. Throughout his novel, Candide, Voltaire satirizes the optimism and order of 18th century society, forcing the reader to laugh at and realize just how absurd all of his/her ideals are, and, therefore, question his/her beliefs. Voltaire challenges the positive attitude of philosophy at the time in order to point out to society just how flawed their beliefs are. By constantly detailing horrific events within his writing, he defies the thought that this truly is the best of all possible worlds. Throughout the play, the character Pangloss, who represents the philosophy at the time, constantly states, “This is the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire 13). By juxtaposing the constant appalling happenings of the play with that line, Voltaire brings to question the validity of that philosophy, and causes every reader to consider and adjust their opinion on whether it truly is ‘the best world’ while laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Attacking the widespread optimism of the time was a goal of Voltaire’s. He felt that people were being too encouraging, and needed to realize that the world isn’t always cheery. At one point in the play Pangloss describes the origins of a disease he has, “This present Paquette received of a learned Grey Friar, who had traced it to its source… who when a novice had it in a direct line from one of the companions of Christopher Columbus… if Columbus had not in an island of America caught this disease… we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal” (8). Pangloss consistently states this is ‘the best of all possible worlds’ after such horrid events are detailed. This is ironic as it disproves the thought that this is a great world, and suggests that society leans toward immediate gratification rather than a full and prosperous life. Chocolate trumps death. By including this passage Voltaire displays our short-sightedness, and suggests the reader take off his rose colored glasses. Voltaire continues to criticize the optimism by including El Dorado, the city of gold, is his book. One house within the city is described, “They entered a very plain house, for the door was only silver, and the ceilings were only of gold” (43). By describing this mythical place but also making it almost unreachable in his novel, Voltaire suggests that we cannot obtain such a paradise. Therefore, we do not know what ‘the best world’ genuinely is. The character Candide mentions that Pangloss would have altered his opinion had he seen El Dorado, and that it is much better than that to which Pangloss had referred to as ‘the best world.’ By writing it in this manner, the reader can clearly see that our world will suffer by comparison to such an impossible utopia. Consequently, he/she is left wondering why he/she is so optimistic about his/her own mediocre situation. Voltaire continues to satirize optimism and government through the garden in which Candide, Pangloss, and Martin visit. Voltaire attacks the structure and order of 18th century government and its unbending nature. Candide’s affection towards a simple farm hints that the unfettered life of farming in a small community would be superior and provide more joy than living in a world controlled by such a large, chaotic government. Towards the end of the novel Candide comes upon a farmer who states, “I am entirely ignorant of the event of the event you mention; I presume in general that they who meddle with the administration of public affairs die…