Voltaire's Candide

Better Essays
Voltaire's Candide

Candide is a reflection of the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Voltaire’s novel is a satire of the Old Regime ideologies in which he critiques the political, social, and religious ideals of his time.

A common intellectual characteristic of the Enlightenment was anti-feudalism. Philosophers were against the separations in the Old Regime and pushed for equality among human beings. Voltaire parodies the pompousness of the nobility several times throughout his novel. As we are introduced to the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, Voltaire describes his castle as luxurious, even though it is inferred that Westphalia is only a moderate estate. Although the name may sound important, Thunder-ten-tronckh lacks the luxury of nobility. The Baron lives off of the labor of others, justifying it by his birth into the right of power. Furthermore, the Baron’s sister refuses to marry Candide’s father because he has one less quarterling than she on his coat of arms. The difference in their lineage is minute; however, the Baroness refuses to marry someone that is less important than she is. Candide himself also experiences a similar incident. The Baron’s son refuses to allow Candide to marry his sister, Cunegonde. Although Candide rescues Cunegonde from several misfortunes, the Baron feels that he is unworthy of someone with such status. In his display of noble arrogance, Voltaire suggests that the accident of birth is meaningless. He continues his parody of the nobility by introducing Don Fernando, the governor of Buenos Ayres. Don Fernando carries with him a long list of names to accentuate his power and wealth. In the days of the Old Regime, this was custom in order to recognize nobility. However, Voltaire portrays Don Fernando as a predator, a liar, and a cheat. He shows that even though Don Fernando may be characterized as wealthy and powerful, he is not superior to others. Finally, Candide’s experiences in the army suggest Voltaire’s bitterness toward the aristocracy. In every war Candide participates in, the common people suffer the consequences of the nobility’s actions.

Another characteristic of the Enlightenment was that of optimism; however Voltaire was a pessimist. Voltaire uses Candide to criticize the Enlightenment view that reason can overcome social chaos. Pangloss, Candide’s devoted friend, is an optimist who claims th...

... middle of paper ...

...e a Franciscan can enter the order, they are required to take a vow of poverty. In stealing the jewels, the theft was breaking this religious vow. The Old Woman was the illegitimate daughter of a Pope. He not only broke his vows of celibacy, but he refused to protect his daughter from society. Also, while Candide was in France he met an abbe. The abbe was involved in things such as gambling, extortion, cheating, and stealing. He also promoted loose morals and involved Candide in these practices by introducing him to a seductress. The abbe only showed kindness to Candide because of the jewels and gold he possessed. Finally, Giroflee is introduced as a satire of the church. Friar Giroflee has hired Pacquette for prostitution services. In a monastery, monks are supposed to refrain from participating in any secular activities, especially prostitution.

Voltaire cleverly parodies the events of the Old Regime in his novel, Candide. With wit and sarcasm, the ideologies of the Enlightenment philosophers are candidly displayed through fictitious, absurd characters. The entire novel is a satire of the political, social, and religious ideals that Voltaire so tirelessly advocated against.
Get Access