The Metamorphoses in Western Literature
In every piece of literary work, a character experiences a transformation as the story develops. How a character is transformed is different for each story. A character can undergo a rapid change such as King Oedipus experienced when the story plot shifted and he found out that he was married to his mother, Jocasta. A character that experienced a slower transformation throughout the story was the young Candide who based his whole identity on the teachings of Professor Pangloss. Candide realized after his worldwide quest that having such an optimistic view on life brought many false hopes that only let him down. In the book, “A Doll’s House,” Nora Helmer experienced a somewhat fast pace transformation that took place slowly overtime due to her husband’s extreme protection and control over her. As seen in these three pieces of literature, a character’s experience and role in the story determines the rate of change that they will go through.
In the story written about the optimist Candide, there is a clear sense of transformation from the beginning where Candide hung on to every idea put before him by Professor Pangloss to when the story concluded with Candide began making his own life decisions. Candide was held captive by some of the most peculiar forms of reasoning composed by Professor Pangloss. In the beginning of the novel, Candide simply learns that the world is not what he had thought it was; that it was more, and more rugged. The first example of Candide's freedom from mental slavery was seen in his experiences in Eldorado. In Chapter seventeen, Candide announces his first rejection to Pangloss' way of thinking by stating, "whatever Professor Pangloss might say, I often noticed that everything went fairly badly in Westphalia" (p. 45). Candide’s understanding, or lack thereof, of the things he and Cacambo discovered in Eldorado forced him to at least question the idea that all is for the best as perceived by Pangloss. Eldorada also symbolizes Voltaire's view of paradise where man might one day arrive at the type of thinking that Voltaire agreed with. In chapter nineteen, there are several examples of how Candide experienced conflict with the Pangloss school of thought. After much thought, Candide and Cacambo decided to depart from Eldorado to continue their search for Cunegonde. Upon seeing a slave with only one leg and one hand, Candide cried out that he will (directed towards Pangloss who is not there) "have to renounce that optimism of yours in the end" (p. 52). When trying to find a way to reach Venice, Mr. Vanderdendur deceives Candide. This experience led him to an overly depressed state of mind. "His mind became a prey to gloomy thoughts" (p. 54). Instead of calling upon the way of thinking like his dear Pangloss would, Candide shows another example of his opposition towards his once beloved professor's ideas after getting all his property stolen out from under him. This will eventually free him from the immaturity that is inflicted on all men by self. He learns that there are more complex ways to view the world when he talks with the philosopher, and, more generally, that there are many views of the world.
Candide’s final evolution was complete when he stated at in the end of the novel, where he learns that this is, as Pangloss taught, the best of all possible worlds, and that we must all "cultivate our garden" (p. 94). Candide can be seen as breaking away from the, all is for the best, philosophy of Pangloss in the end. Candide feels a complete and total obligation to constantly agree with Pangloss, yet his final statement implicitly denies and opposes Pangloss' views. This is because Candide finally comes to his own opinion on what must be done to overcome his suffering when he arrives at the notion of going to work in the garden.
In the story, “Oedipus the King” the main character, Oedipus, was viewed as a hero by the people of