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Essay on Use of Satire to Attack Optimism in Voltaire's Candide

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Use of Satire to Attack Optimism in Voltaire's Candide

 
  In its time, satire was a powerful tool for political assault on Europe's corrupt and deteriorating society. Voltaire's Candide uses satire to vibrantly and sarcastically portray optimism, a philosophical view from the Enlightenment used to bury the horrors of 18th century life: superstition, sexually transmitted diseases, aristocracy, the church, tyrannical rulers, civil and religious wars, and the cruel punishment of the innocent.

Through the steady adversity faced by Candide, Voltaire brings up important questions about how the nature of optimism appears to commoners. Pangloss's philosophy of "the best of all possible worlds" - an example of the misleading optimistic theory advocated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment which Voltaire deems absurd, - is "listened to attentively and believed innocently" (2) by the young and naive Candide at the beginning of the novel. However, as the novel progresses Candide begins to balks at this optimist idea, in the end suggesting to his comrades to "cultivate our garden" (87). This, his own conclusion, can be interpreted as humble work is the only answer to a life continuously plagued with bad luck. Through the actions of his silly characters, Voltaire preaches that man is unable to understanding the evils in this world and concludes that the basic goal of life is not to seek pure and trivial happiness, rather it is to learn to survive.

"The Enlightenment" is used to characterize many new ideas and advancements in 18th century philosophy, science, and medicine. The principal trait of Enlightenment philosophy is the belief that people create a better environment in which to live. Pangloss, the...


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...the Enlightenment, he uses Candide as a means to scrutinize the absolute optimism of his fellow thinkers. Voltaire's use of satire throughout the novel is intended to identify inequality, brutality, and racism, all of the things that optimism intends to cover. The effect of such satire is that it sheds light on these injustices and has them viewed as intolerable by the reader. Voltaire drew attention to the actuality of the 18th century, while Enlightenment philosophers tried to use optimism to mask the horrors. By acknowledging that there are problems in society, Voltaire's anti-optimism view causes the population to ponder and draw out reform ideas.

Works Cited

Bottiglia, William. "Candide's Garden." Voltaire: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991


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