A Critical Analysis of Candide by Voltaire


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A Critical Analysis of Candide by Voltaire

Defining optimism and redefining the philosophies of the fictional Pangloss and the non-fictional Leibniz, Candid embarks on a mishap journey. From the very onset, Voltaire begins stabbing with satire, particularly at religion.
Candide, which has been credited the base for the book and movie Forrest Gump, features a main character teeming with naiveté. Pangloss says all is for the better and Candide lives by this edict with unaltered optimism. Faced with death and fatigue, Candide is befriended only to be enlisted in the Bulgarian army. Escaping death a few more times, he sees the pains of war and masks the pain with philosophy.
Sails are set for Portugal and James, the Anabaptist, dies trying to save his enemy. Voltaire’s satire on religion is seething as he writes Pangloss’ rationalization for James death. Attempting to show the world absent of evil in order to confirm the existence of a perfectly good, omniscient, omnipotent God, they end up creating convoluted justifications for horrific events.
The earthquake in Lisbon, a true event, illustrates yet more satire on the church. Auto-de-fe is the Catholic response to catastrophe, and Voltaire takes a shot at religion here. Innocents are superstitiously hanged to prevent earthquakes, so Voltaire pens another earthquake on the very day of this “act of faith.” Pangloss is hanged for his innocent speech, which the church has convoluted, and Candide is flogged simply for listening with "an air of approbation."
The Grand Inquisitor's relationship with Conegund is another attack on religious hypocrisy. He uses the threat of an auto-de-fe to frighten Don Issachar into allowing him to fornicate with Conegund. As the Grand Inquisitor it is his duty to enforce Christian doctrine, and he abuses that power to commit grievous sin. Voltaire’s satire slapped Christian institutions with that note only to follow it with the stealing of Conegund’s jewels. In this case it is a Franciscan sworn to a life of poverty that steals Conegund’s wealth.
Perhaps the most interesting satire on religion is the utopia Voltaire creates in the hidden kingdom.

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Candid, in naïve fashion, stumbles on to this kingdom where all people are equals and no one squabbles. Voltaire credits the success of the kingdom as one absent of religion, religious institution, where no one forces religion upon another. The wise sage says that religion is practiced in the personal daily prayers of the people. This utopia defines Voltaire. His satire isn’t necessarily on religious doctrine or belief, only upon the corrupt governing body of religion and the nobility that corrupts it.


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