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Essay on Candide

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Today we see sarcasm and satire everywhere. In movies and books, on television, and in our everyday life. We almost do not realize it, because we are so used to sarcasm as a device to show the folly or ludicrousness of something, and public figures today can almost guarantee that they will be parodied at some point in their career; it is completely acceptable for writers and comedians today to go after anyone in jest. In the eighteenth century, however, satire was not as acceptable. Upon publication of his most famous work, Candide, the author Voltaire saw plenty of criticism for the authorities the story questioned. Voltaire did not even sign his name to the original work, though many suspected he wrote it nonetheless. Its prominence and thorough denouncement show that Candide is in fact one of the eighteenth century’s most important works of social satire. Voltaire attacks the optimism of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through his character Doctor Pangloss, teacher of the title character.
From the very beginning of the story, the reader can see the extreme optimism of Pangloss, who instructs Candide, "Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches. Stones were formed to be quarried and to build castles; and My Lord has a very noble castle... those who have asserted all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best." This has a clearly sarcastic tone, for Pangloss’s logical fallacies seem ridiculous; he seemingly turns cause to effect and vice-versa. This is one of the many main sources of humor in the story, so we see many more examples of it. When Candide reconnects with Pangloss after being kicked o...


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...ish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years’ War, none of which really changed anything but for the lives they consumed. Although Voltaire did not condone wars for religious reasons, as evidenced by his sarcastic comments through Pangloss, he did not condone war for no reason at all either, which is what these wars were. This had to have frustrated Voltaire, as well as many Enlightenment thinkers of his day, to see that the leaders of the day were so behind the thinkers of the day, though the same could be said today as well.
One has to wonder what Voltaire would think of contemporary society. While we certainly acknowledge that there are issues with our society, this does not often get us closer to solving them. We still fight wars, and politicians still avoid blame for mistakes, though now instead of blaming God, they blame each other.




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