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Voltaire, whose real name was Francois Marie Arouet, was a man whose cynical style of writing brought attention upon himself, both in the positive aspect and in the negative. Francois associated himself with a group of politically power-hungry people who held a frantic hatred against the duke of Orleans. He was wrongly believed to have printed two libelous poems that defaced the duke and due to the false accusation he was imprisoned in the Bastille. This oppression of his right, by imprisoning him wrongly, might have led to Voltaire's less than favorable way of introducing France within his novel Candide. Near when Voltaire was in his 60's a great quake took place in Lisbon killing thousands of people and the tragedy of the quake was written about in the novel, and only a year after, a devastating Seven Year War began which was also referenced within the novel Candide. Because of the overall suffering that man has brought upon each other and was given to them by nature he rejected the concept of a rational and well regulated universe and has often made puns at that philosophical ideal within the Candide.
Voltaire's Candide tells of the struggle of a man who went through much misfortune in life to pursue happiness and love. The protagonist was a man, who went by the name of Candide and the story gives a vivid detail of his adventures as he sought to win the love of Miss Cunegonde.
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The novel brings light to how greed for something greater than what is given brings ill fortune upon people. From the beginning of the story, our protagonist and hero Candide had forsaken what could have been happiness within the castle of the baron Thunder-ten-tronckh by trying and pursuing the favor of the baron's daughter, Miss Cunegonde. After Candide's exile from the castle, civil war broke out between the Bulgarians and the Abares for power and land. Due to the war, the citizens and soldiers of both sides suffered greatly for the ambition of the kings on both sides. One of those that suffered was the inhabitants of the castle of the baron, whose door was broken in by the Bulgarians and its inhabitants either were slaughtered or sexually demoralized till their death. However it is brought to light that not all of those within the castle suffered death as it was once believed. One of the few that escaped the clutches of death was the fair Miss Cunegonde, who through many turns of events ended up becoming one of the mistresses of a wealthy and powerful man in Portugal.
During his travel around the globe, Candide encountered the hidden city of El Dorado which like its legend said, the roads were paved with gold and other riches. The people there were friendly and even the poorest of those within its borders found happiness and contentment. That was so because of the lack of greed for any monetary items due to most of the country's wealth lining the grounds upon which they lived. However due to Candide's ever long ambition to court Miss Cunegonde he gave up what could have been the modern day Garden of Eve to keep pursing her. He did leave however with many piles of gold and diamonds which could have brought fortune beyond imagination upon himself in the world outside of El Dorado if he chose to stop his pursuit of Miss Cunegonde at that point, but he still recklessly ventured forth. He eventually found Miss Cunegonde and was able to marry her, but his love by that time had grown incredibly ugly due to long hours of labor in the sun and his wealth that he had gained from El Dorado had depleted. In the end happiness was not found in the arms of Miss Cunegonde but simply by taking enjoyment out of life as it was.
Irony played an ever important role within the novel to portray Voltaire's cynical vision of society. Throughout Candide's adventure amongst the many different cultures, he encountered a wide variety of people whose roles in life did not befit their actions. Often portrayed in an ironic situation were the religious characters that Candide met. It is acknowledged that one of the characters that were introduced within the novel was a daughter of the Pope. It is common knowledge that a Catholic priest should have been celibate for life by an oath of passage and yet here was the daughter of a man who was the highest ranking official within the Catholic Church meaning that he had broken that sacred vow. Another religious hypocrite was a cold-hearted Catholic Inquisitor, who condemned and sentenced to death heretics and non-followers of the Catholic order, yet he himself hypocritically kept a mistress, something that was forbidden within the laws of the Catholic order. In Candide's adventures he had stumbled across both civilized and non-civilized communities, but it was ironic to note that the non-civilized community found greater happiness amongst themselves than the ones who lived a cultured life. It was because of their lack of corruption by monetary goods for something greater that their lives were more content. Candide also came upon a man of great wealth in his journey, however that man was never satisfied with what he had, and in turn he was never happy. His greed for something more always led him to dismiss what he had. The theme itself is an irony because the pursuance of something greater would have been thought to bring rewards of happiness and contentment however it itself only brought misfortune.