Free Essays: Candide's Metamorphosis


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Candide's Metamorphosis

 

 

 

 

In Voltaire's novella, we view the main character, Candide, as being sophomoric and rather naïve. Yet, Candide eventually frees himself from the shackles that burden his beloved philosopher Pangloss and other characters befriended along the way. Candide's journey back to Cunegonde become a means for him to emerge from his "self-imposed immaturity."

 

 

The word "candide," which Cassell's French Dictionary defines as "ingenuous", would greatly summarize who the main character is to be perceived as. He will shape his own opinions throughout the story to parallel anybody else's that would seem to please him. His faith is put in a number of people who he meets along his travels, as he tries to find his way back to Cunegonde. He sees things as others would instruct him to see them. And though it can be contested that he is still the same at the end of the book, I will argue that he becomes the most emancipated from his own chains of "self-imposed immaturity" than any of his friends and comrades.

 

The book first starts off with Candide hanging on to every idea put before him by Pangloss. He is held captive by some of the most bizarre forms of reasoning composed by Professor Pangloss. In Chapter 1, Pangloss professes that "our noses were made to carry spectacles, so we have spectacles," and that "since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all the year round." This rationalization is totally bizarre and could not be applied to any reasonable mode of thought (especially the latter, which would be quickly dismissed by Vegans, Vegetarians, Muslims, and Jews!). After Candide is eventually banished from the house of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, he is taken in by James (the Anabaptist). After discovering Pangloss in a wretched state, eventually Candide, James, and Pangloss set off to Lisbon. As James drowns, Pangloss stops Candide from saving the Anabaptist by saying that the "Lisbon harbour was made on purpose for this Anabaptist to drown here." These quotes symbolize the type of thinking found in Voltaire's day. This was the type of thinking that the Enlightenment school of thought was trying to get away from, and the type of nonsense Candide will challenge to some extent at the end and soon break away from.

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The first example of Candide's emancipation from mental slavery can be seen in his experiences in Eldorado. In Chapter seventeen, Candide announces his first rejection to Pangloss' way of thinking by stating that "whatever Professor Pangloss might say, I often noticed that all went badly in Westphalia." His understanding (or lack thereof) of the things he and Cacambo discover in Eldorado forces him to at least question the idea that "all is for the best" as perceived by Pangloss. This place also symbolizes Voltaire's idea utopia where man might one day arrive at the type of thinking that Voltaire agreed with.

 

In chapter nineteen, we see several examples of how Candide comes into conflict with the Pangloss school of thought. After much thought, Candide and Cacambo decide to depart from Eldorado to continue their search for Cunegonde. Upon seeing a slave with only one leg and one hand, Candide cries out that he will (directed towards Pangloss who is not there) "have to renounce that optimism of yours in the end." When trying to find a way to reach Venice, Candide is duped by Mr. Vanderdendur. This experience leads him to an overly depressed state of mind ("his mind became a prey to gloomy thoughts"). Instead of calling upon the way of thinking his dear Pangloss (which probably would have been drawn upon the lines of Mr. Vanderdendur being created to allow Candide to be duped by him), we see another example of Candide's opposition to his beloved professor's ideas. This will eventually free him from the immaturity that (according to Kant) is imposed on all men by self.

 

I believe Candide can be seen as breaking away from the "all is for the best" philosophy of Pangloss in the end. His evolution is finally complete when he states in the last chapter that "we must go and work in the garden": this final sentence can be seen as an antagonist to Pangloss' previous statement ("There is a chain of events in this best...). Candide feels a complete and total obligation to constantly agree with Pangloss, yet his final statement implicitly denies and opposes Pangloss' views. This is because Candide finally comes to his own opinion on what must be done to overcome his suffering when he arrives at the notion of going to work in the garden. This idea is inspired and instilled by the Turk whom they meet after their encounter with the dervish.

 

 


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