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Essay on Voltaire's Candide - Fallacy of Optimism Exposed

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Fallacy of Optimism Exposed in Candide


In Candide, Voltaire paints a dismal and satirical view of the world. Voltaire paints a pessimistic portrait of a naïve youth who is raised to believe that this is best of all worlds. Time and again, Voltaire clearly portrays his belief that this is not the best of all possible worlds.

 

The characters of the story face great adversity. In chapter 10, Cunegonde states that her misfortune is so great that she does not see how the old woman's story of woe can surpass her own. In chapters 11 and 12 the old woman then goes onto tell of her misfortune. When she finishes Candide and Cunegonde are amazed at the hard times this woman has faced. At the proposal of the old woman, Candide and Cunegonde ask others on the ship relate their adventures, and sure enough, the others on the boat have stories that can match or surpass Cunegonde's tale of woe.

 

Throughout most of the book, Voltaire pokes fun at Leibniz's that according to the hierarchical structure of monads that this is best of all possible worlds. Candide and Pangloss are the main characters used to satirize the belief that this is the best of all possible worlds. Pangloss is a blind optimist; he refused to see things being anything other than the best. No matter what sort of natural disaster or misfortune falls upon someone Pangloss heralds it is being for the best.  Candide-the naïve follower of Pangloss-is first a blind follower of Pangloss, but eventually comes to reject his teachings. In chapter 3 after meeting John the Anabaptist, Candide affirms, "now I am convinced that my Master Pangloss told me truth when he said that everything was for the best in this world." However, in the beginning of Chapter 4 only few p...


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...t this is not the best of all possible worlds. Though some good things happen along their adventures, Candide's fellow adventurers face great misfortune. Eventually they are forced to live a life of labor-not at all befitting their noble ancestry. Though greatly disappointed with their outcome all but Candide insist on claiming that all is for the best. The complete absurdity that one could go through as much and end up in the place where they end up and still claim that all was for the best furthers Voltaire's belief in the fallacy of systematic optimism.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Frautschi, R.L. Barron's Simplified Approach to Voltaire: Candide. New

York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1998.

Lowers, James K, ed. "Cliff Notes on Voltaire's Candide". Lincoln: Cliff Notes, Inc. 1995.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1996.


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