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Essay on Analysis of Voltaire´s Candide

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The age of Enlightenment in France started in the late 17th century, a time during which the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV ruled over all facets of life. The opulence and power of a single ruler led many philosophers of the time to look at life more closely and consider the realities behind the extravagance of the court of Versailles. On the surface of society, reason was seen as the driving force of the civilized world, education was becoming more and more important, the arts and sciences were encouraged, and the values of the Classical Period were at the forefront. However, under the surface of this civilized socity, the old traditions of the church, greed and power of the nobles, and the wretchedness of the poor were still present. Voltaire, in his book Candide, looks below the surface and shows how little the world has really changed; how prejudice, blindness and obsession still overpowered reason in the “Age of Reason”, describing the hidden savageness of the civilized society.
At the very outset of the book, Pangloss, a tutor and philosopher, puts forth the idea that the human world is the best world and whatever happens in this amazing world serves the best function possible. This notion of Pangloss is the main question of the book, but his blind optimism stands in contrast with the suffering and injustices of the story itself. If this is the best world, how is it possible that people are beaten, raped and murdered? Savagery is still common, the Bulgars raped Cuegonde, and horribly killed her family, after which they burned down the castle, the most beautiful castle according to Pangloss. The old woman was raped with her mother and servants by the Moors, then she was sold and raped over and over again by different people...


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... to see our faults and accept those, who are different. There is always an inside and an outside group. Whoever belongs to the inside group is civilized and reasonable and those, who are different, must be inferior. Yet when one looks at this story without identifying oneself with anyone, it becomes obvious that there is little difference between the savage and the civilized. Candide is no more civilized than the Lobeiros tribe, as he had committed murder before but he justifies his action through common reasoning, just as the actions of murder, rape and maiming are justified if they are committed by the inside group, the so-called civilized and reasonable world. Therefore the real savageness of people, exemplified by Candide, manifests in ignorance and rigidity, yet there is a certain kind of comedy in that really nothing has changed since the beginning of time.



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