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Candide by Voltaire

Candide ou l'Optimisme is a piece of satirical literary work written in 1759 by French Philosopher of the age of enlightenment named Voltaire. The work was later translated into many languages including English from its original piece written in Fren...Read More

~Posted on Sep 2018


Candide ou l'Optimisme is a piece of satirical lit...

Candide ou l'Optimisme is a piece of satirical literary work written in 1759 by French Philosopher of the age of enlightenment named Voltaire. The work was later translated into many languages including English from its original piece written in French. It turned out to be a timeless piece of satire with the main character being Candide as a young and naïve man banished from his home. The satire by Voltaire seems to have a direct intention of warning the public against any form of radical optimism as is demonstrated by Candide, who holds fast his optimism despite the devastating events that take place in his life. Voltaire can bring out the emphasis on the dangers of radical optimism through the incorporation of themes, tones and also by utilizing satire. There are several themes presented in the work, and Voltaire can use the theme of love to the full extent. The characters are in constant search of love, and it is the chasing of love that further advances the story given in the literary work. However, the theme of love is a powerful tool in the novel and is a major at shaping up the outcome as well as the flow of the story. Love is depicted right from the beginning as being elusive for the characters. However, it is the theme of love that brings out a concise and good start, flow and conclusion of the story with love outweighing all the other factors faced by the main character.

Candide has a form of innocence that leads to his falling in love. He madly fell in love with Cunegonde out of pure innocence and also naivety. The traits and also the attributes about her did not come out clearly to home before he had made up his mind and let himself fall for her. It is demonstrated in the way that Voltaire says, “Cunégonde let fall her handkerchief, Candide picked it up; she took him innocently by the hand and the youth as innocently kissed the young lady's hand with particular vivacity.”(23) They only met at the castle, and it was a case of love at first sight. It is the limited time and the kiss on her arm that made Candide go through all the pain and unfortunate events in pursuit of her love and to be rejoined with her. 

Candide has an absurd and irrational way of thinking and also accepting the extent to which love goes to in the real world. He runs counter to the fact that he is young and full of vibrancy to move on with his life to be stagnated at wanting Cunégonde’s love. Even upon his being kicked out of the castle by her father, he does not move on with his love life with the illusion that and naïve idealism that Cunégonde is also still holding on to the love he imagined they shared. Voltaire illuminates this when he says, “"Cunégonde is dead! Ah, best of worlds, where art thou? But of what illness did she die? Was it not for grief, upon seeing her father kick me out of his magnificent castle?" (49) Candide’s sole mission was to find Cunégonde to keep sharing their love and even after he is kicked out of Baron’s castle he moves to beautiful places such as Eldorado. However, he leaves the place in search of the love of his life and whenever he thinks he found her he loses her all over again. He, however, strongly holds his optimism that one day he will have a love forever.

Voltaire also indicates the existence of other forms of love apart from the romantic love shared by Candide and Cunegonde. Candide seems to have a strong attachment to Martin and Pangloss. He is their teacher and also to some extent their sidekick but exudes an unyielding bond to the dual especially to Pangloss. Throughout the story, there are instances he feels lost without them despite the fact that he did not always agree with all of them all the time. He keeps their company showing a form of attachment and love.

Voltaire further advances the story by indicating the level of optimism that Candide holds about the purity and essence of love whereby together with Pangloss, they equate it to a form of salvation. He states, “Alas!" said the other, "it was love; love, the comfort of the human species, the preserver of the universe, the soul of all sensible beings, love, tender love." (65)  It is satirical because Candide also recalls the fact that his expression of love with just a single kiss led to his receiving of twenty kicks on his back as he was thrown out of the castle. The false sense of optimism continues with Candide’s continued search for his love despite the fact that her father and even brother strongly opposed the union.

In as much love may be all strong and triumphant, it is not always worth the pain and sacrifices, and therefore, there is the need to draw the line of continued optimism as indicated in the book through the happenings that faced Candide. Even after making all the sacrifices and going through the struggles, Candide finally gets the love of his life, but he had to rescue her from the ruler of Transylvania. However to his surprise and disappointment, she is no longer as beautiful as he remembered her. It struck him that he went through all the struggle of waiting for her and fighting for their love only to realize that withy time she lost her shine and beauty that had attracted him. He, however, marries her since he had waited for too long and also wanted to remain honorable.

In conclusion, Voltaire can take full advantage of the theme of love to bring out the story. The story beginning with the couple falling in love and their separation and it is the events in between leading to their reuniting that shapes up the story. Therefore,   Voltaire has used the theme of love in a satirical manner to bring out a concise and good beginning, flow and conclusion of the story with love outweighing all the other factors faced by the main character. 

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