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Essay on Voltaire's Candide Exposes Extreme Optimism

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Philosophy of Extreme Optimism in Candide


It is often said that a person's life is shaped when he or she is a child. This is very much so with Candide - Pangloss was his tutor in "metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology" (Voltaire 18) since Candide was a child, and instilled into Candide's mind his philosophy of extreme optimism. Pangloss belief that "all is for the best in this world" (24) somewhat stays with Candide throughout his travels and is more of a burden to him than anything else. By discussing the various events of fate that happened to Candide, his analysis of how the event was for the best, and how he incorporates Pangloss' philosophies into the choices he makes, this essay will show that his teachings only sometimes justified the events experienced by Candide, but most of the time he lived by that phrase. The teachings did however always justify Candide's actions, and delayed the naive Candide in achieving what he wanted more than anything - being with, and marrying, Cunégonde.

Candide's naivety is always his worst enemy throughout his adventures. The wit of Voltaire is present even with the naming of his characters, with Candide derived from the Latin candida, which translates to kind, innocent, and fair skinned. Voltaire describes how Candide is easily manipulated, not only by the teachings of Pangloss but the other characters in Candide who swindled Candide's money after he visited Eldorado and gained his wealth. As Candide grows wealthier and wiser, he begins to doubt the extreme optimism practiced by his presumably dead mentor Pangloss. He even explicitly states "And despite what Dr. Pangloss used to say, I often noticed that everything went rather badly in Westphalia" (65) when ...


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

Durant, Will, Ariel Durant. The Story of Civilization: Part IX: The Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.

Frautschi, R.L. Barron's Simplified Approach to Voltaire: Candide. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1968.

Grieder, Josephine. "The Structure of Candide,' "French Review 57.4 (1984): 485-92. Reproduced in Literature Resource Center. Kingwood Coll. Lib., Kingwood 27 Oct 1999 .

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

Richter, Peyton. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Voltaire's Candide and the Critics. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1998.


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