The Use of Satire in Voltaire’s Candide
Satire. According to dictionary.com it is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. During a time when going against the common mindset, which at the time was philosophical optimism, was rare and often looked down upon, using satire in order to not only communicate one’s beliefs but also mock those who shared the mainstream train of thought was key. The use of satire in Voltaire's Candide aids in the exhibition of his pessimistic mindset towards the social, religious, philosophical, political, and scientific beliefs that were favored during the Age of Enlightenment.
Going against the crowd and making his opinions clear were not only Voltaire's specialty, but also his career. When he wrote his novel in 1759, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s idea of philosophical optimism was very popular. Leibniz, along with many others, believed that Earth was the best of all possible worlds. As explained in an article on Leibniz published by the University of Idaho, he believed that because God created the world and God is not only all powerful but also all knowing and all good, he would create a world with minimal evil. Though, because only God can truly be perfect, our world is not perfect, but it is the best it can possible be. The article states: “Leibniz isn't concerned with the world he observes but with the world his
mathematical formula can prove”. Leibniz ignored the problems and flaws in society that were so clearly in front of him because his logic rendered them impossible. This is where the conflict first began to arise between Leibniz and Voltaire. Voltai...
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...rs is their inability to change their mindset despite their experiences. The old woman, Cunegonde, and Martin all learn from their tortures and alter their beliefs to disregard philosophical optimism because of them. Candide and Pangloss’s failure to do so results in even more obstacles for them to face.
What was once considered an outrageous notion is now commonplace, and Voltaire’s use of satire in Candide aided in this transition. His blatant ridicule of philosophical optimism allowed people to recognize the flaws in the ideology. This led people to further investigate and develop different philosophies, some of which are still honored today. Even though Candide was written in response to the Age of Enlightenment, it’s revolutionary ideas and concepts have
made an impact throughout history and into present day, and will continue to do so into the future.
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