In Voltaires?s Candide, the main character, Candide, fails to live happily because he is looking outside of himself and his circumstances to do it. Voltaire says through Candide's ultimate discovery that happiness in many ways depends on a person's attitude. Voltaire's philosophy expressed through Candide's final realization is that "We must cultivate our garden," which is the key to happiness(p.585). By cultivating our garden, Voltaire means that we must make the best of our situation in the present moment. We accept what we are given in life and work to make the best of it. It all has to do with our perspective on life. We do not find happiness somewhere else or by philosophizing about it, we open our eyes to the happiness that already exists.
Before Candide?s final discovery, he looks for happiness in three ways and fails at each. In the first way, Candide tries to satisfy himself through his lover, Miss Cunegonde. Throughout the story, Candide is striving to be with Cunegonde. It begins when Candide is thrown out of the castle by the Baron of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh. Candide is kicked out because he is caught Kissing Cunegonde: "Their lips met, their eyes lit up, their knees tremble, their hands wandered"(p.522). Candide thinks that being with Cunegonde will make him happy. This will not make Candide happy in the long run, because the love is superficially based on appearance: "Candide listened attenetively and believed implicitly; for he found Miss Cunegonde exceedingly pretty, though he never had the courage to tell her so"(p.522). Candide is looking outside of himself and relying on Cunegonde to please and satisfy him.
The second way Candide searches for happiness is by listening and following th...
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...r: "We don?t pray to him at all; we have nothing to ask for, since everything we need has already been granted; we thank God continually"(p.552).
In conclusion, Candide?s preliminary notion of what happiness is conflicts with Voltaire?s philosophy of happiness. At first Candide sees happiness as something he must attain outside himself. Candide fails to recognize that happiness is found within himself through working to make the best of things and seeing the good in the present moment. Candide tries to be happy by pursuing his lover and believing his teacher. In the end, Candide?s revelation of how to be happy coincides with Voltaire?s philosophy of cultivating our gardens. Cultivating our garden basically involves doing the best with what we already have.
Voltaire. Candide. Translated and edited by Robert M. Adams. New York: Norton, 1966.
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