Does Voltaire consider optimism a viable worldview? What evidence does he provide through his portrayal of European and non-European societies to support this view? How do Candide’s evolving beliefs reflect this view on optimism?
History 102 MWF 9:20
Peter Kotowski Candide is a naïve, kind hearted, innocent young boy. He follows the teachings of his mentor Pangloss, who is an enlightenment philosopher and his philosophy is that “this world is the best of all possible worlds.” (Voltaire, Candide 12) Since Pangloss is Candide’s mentor, he believes this to be true, because he has had no real life experiences to prove otherwise. Candide is the illegitimate nephew of the German baron and lives in the baron’s castle with his family. Candide’s first real experience of seeing how unfair the world is, is when the baron catches Candide and the baron’s daughter Cunegonde in an innocent kiss. This leaves Candide alone in the world, with no place to go, no money, and no idea how to care for himself, but this is the way it is supposed to be, because everything that happens is supposed to happen for a reason. Voltaire wrote Candide as a satire, he wanted to show the Enlightenment age how ridiculous this way of life is, and poke fun at all the things that can and do go wrong in life. Voltaire rejects optimism as a viable worldview all throughout this book. I feel like he is playing with the reader a little bit throughout the book, he starts each story or chapter with something positive and makes you think everything is going to work out, and then reality hits and he over exaggerates situations and makes it the worst possible outcome, just so he can prove a point. For example, he starts out the book in the first two chapters with Candide so innocent and at peace with his life, and so in love with the baron’s daughter, then he finally gets a change to be alone with her, kisses her and ends up getting kicked out of the castle and having to sleep in the snow almost freezing to death, then he meets these nice gentlemen who are so welcoming
D’Alba 2 towards him and make him feel like things are going to start looking up for him, then they end up being a part of the Bulgars and beating him to a pulp until he begged them just to kill him, then the king stopped it. This is just one example of the terrible things Candide and the other character’s endure in this book. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions with Voltaire and this book, you don’t know whether to be happy or sad, and it’s constantly changing. Voltaire explains his portrayal on the differences between European and non-European societies in various ways. For instance, when Candide and his companion Cacambo get lost and end up in a strange country called El Dorado, they notice children playing and they dropped what they were doing and ran to the school master, but they had left gold, emeralds, and rubies. Candide thought this must have been a mistake so he gathers them up and tries returning them to the school master, the master throws them back on the ground and turns his back and walks away. Candide did not understand where they had ended up! Unlike European societies, the people of El Dorado are welcoming to the two new faces. They are provided a meal and entertainment at no cost to them, the government pays for it all. They took them to another city and treated them like kings. They dined with the king and were welcomed with open arms. Compared to how Candide has been treated throughout the book in European societies, beginning in Westphalia, Candide is kicked out of the baron’s castle for kissing his daughter. He gets beaten almost to death. Then in Holland when a woman finds out that Candide does not believe that the Pope is an antichrist, she pours out the contents of a chamber pot onto his head. He finds out everyone that lived in the baron’s castle got brutally beaten and his love Cunegonde had gotten raped and killed. In