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Candide by Nate Ziefert Essay

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Book Critique of Candide

Candide is a French satire novella first published in 1759 by Gabriel Cramer in Paris, France, and written by François-Marie Arouet, or Voltaire, his pen name, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. This book was chosen to show what life was like in France prior to the French Revolution and to provide an overview of the political issues of that period. Reading the book provided context for discussing various themes, including the importance of reason, the corruption of the church, money and power, inequality, which were all-pressing issues in the time period we studied. The book was useful to our course of studies because it detailed what life was like in France during the middle of the 18th century and provided context for what was taught in class--for example corruption by powerful forces in French society, such as the unfair treatment and pay between serfs and their feudal lords.
A number of historical events lead Voltaire to write Candide. The first was the publication of Leibniz's "Monadology", an essay discussing Leibniz’ philosophy of optimism. Two other historical events, the Seven Years’ War and the 1775 Lisbon earthquake, also provided inspiration to Voltaire. The close of the Leibniz’ piece, "Therefore this is the best of all possible worlds", serves as the primary basis for Voltaire’s satire. Things were not so good in France, at the time for the majority of the French people and there was not much reason for optimism. Voltaire rejected Leibnizian optimism because if he was in the best of all possible worlds, a tragic and devastating earthquake should not have occurred. Natural disasters simply do not fit into the philosophy of optimism. Voltaire’s point of view is very logic...


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...ergy goes into the work, and he stops all of his previous philosophical speculation. Finally, he is content.
The text was entertaining, but highly improbable, and provides a good perspective from which to view the culture and politics of Spain and France in the mid-1700’s. The themes—the hypocrisy of religion, the foolishness of optimism, the uselessness of philosophical speculation and the corrupting influence of power and money—are expressed in an wildly entertaining manner. I found the way Voltaire interwove the characters with his themes and used satire most interesting. He made the characters whose opinions he disagreed with look like fools in order to discredit their beliefs, and he made his points through characters that were likable. Candide was definitely worth reading and packed in a lot of history and philosophy into a fast-paced, action story.



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