Voltaire’s "Candide"

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Voltaire’s Candide portrays an exaggerated image of human cruelty and suffering in the world. Specifically, Voltaire criticizes people’s lack of willingness to prevent suffering, and their tendency to accept the idea that there is nothing anyone can do about human outcomes. He upholds his belief that practical ways of solving problems generate improvement. He believes that human indifference and inaction cause suffering to carry on. Voltaire’s believes that naïve optimism, absolute pessimism, cruel indifference, and lack of reason hinder positive and constructive change.

Pangloss is a major representation of the optimistic philosophy of life. This naïve optimism does not promote the improvement of conditions in the world because it accepts circumstances as having a positive function. His viewpoint that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and that “there is no effect without a cause,” mixed with the exaggerated description of suffering, presents an absurdity that Voltaire attempts to portray (4). For example, in the aftermath of the Lisbon earthquake, when Candide is crushed by rubble and is yelling at Pangloss for help, Pangloss is so caught up in his contemplation about the cause and effect of the situation that he is completely oblivious to the actions he could take to help his friend (19). This scene depicts the absurdity of accepting such terrible torment as fair, and portrays the idea that accepting the philosophy of optimism does nothing to diminish suffering. When Anabaptist James falls overboard on the ship to Lisbon, Pangloss keeps Candide from attempting to help him, claiming, “the Bay of Lisbon had been made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned” (17-18). Pangloss has a mindset that promotes inhumane way...

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...sts that in order to gain peace and happiness, one must take full responsibility for oneself and take the logical steps necessary to actively achieve change (137). Voltaire portrays the idea that without logical reasoning and action, suffering will continue.

Through the characters’ traits and attitudes, such as Pangloss and Martin’s closed-minded philosophies, the affects that indifference and inaction have on societal conditions are apparent. Voltaire successfully portrays the faults of mankind in the lack of concern, reason, and action needed to improve the conditions of world suffering. Voltaire also portrays, through James the Anabaptist and the Turkish farm, that positive change can be achieved through hard work and determination. Candide successfully depicts Voltaire’s belief that humans must take responsibility for making the world a better place to live.
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