Irony, Satire, Symbols, and Symbolism in Voltaire's Candide
Length: 447 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
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In the novel, Candide, Voltaire uses many literary writing tools to prove the points in which he believes. Some of these many literary tools are irony, satire, and symbolism. Through these tools, Voltaire proves that greed is a universal vice, and usually ends in ones own destruction.
Voltaire strongly emphasizes his pessimistic view throughout the story. During Chapter 10, he uses his philosophies, as well as other literary tools, to present greed as a devastating factor of society's corruption. For example, Cunegonde found that someone had stolen her money and jewels. "Who could have stolen my money and diamonds? ...I strongly suspect a reverend Franciscan who slept in the same inn with us last night in Badajoz."(Pg. 40) She was sure that the thief was the reverend; how is it that money can makes someone so holly, corrupt enough to make a sin? Voltaire uses irony here to show the pessimistic view of greed overcoming a holly person's wholesomeness.
Voltaire satirized philosophical optimism. He used exaggerations and berated all the petty inhumanities of society. This is illustrated in the scene where Cunegonde was ready to marry a man for money, not on love.
"'Madam, you have seventy-two years of nobility, but not one penny. You now have the chance to become the wife of a man who's the greatest lord in South America and has a very handsome mustache." (Pg. 51)
As Cunegonde ponders whether or not to marry a man for money, she provide support for Voltaire's overall theme of pessimism.
Candide and Cacambo traveled to Eldorado, and found it to be the best place ever. "If our friend Pangloss had seen Eldorado, he wouldn't have said that the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh was the finest thing on earth." (Pg. 68) Leaving a perfect place, such as Eldorado, where they could be seen as equals, and extremely pleased, seems insane. However, Candide and Cacambo found money more important. They left to live in a corrupt world, filled with riches and wealth. "[If we return to our world] we'll be richer than all the kings of Europe put together." (Pg. 70) This just goes to show that humanity see more, and better of money than happiness, and riches in contentment.
Eldorado is a symbol of society's corruption, through greed.
Through the use of irony, satire, and symbolism, Voltaire's skillfully develops his pessimistic story of Candide. The truth is that much of our world has been corrupted through mankind’s own self-indulgence. The awful events related in Candide are replayed on a smaller scale everyday on the streets of New York City.
Voltaire. Candide. A Bantam Book, New York, 1981.