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How Reading ‘Candide’ by Voltaire Can Change Your Life Essay

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2022

Introduction

Françoise Voltaire is a great French philosopher of the Enlightenment age. Candide is one of the works written by Voltaire that makes modern society think about inexhaustible themes of his ideas and their impact on modern society, governments, and interactions of people and cultures. As the picaresque novel is based on Leibnitz’s philosophy of optimism which suggests the idea of the perfectness of the world and everything in the world, to be more exact, Voltaire introduces ironic ideas concerning life and its imperfectness. Candide influenced greatly the life of Voltaire’s contemporaries as it opposed the earthquake in Lisbon to the concept of the perfect world.

The novel introduces ideas about doubts on the optimistic theory taught by Dr. Pangloss, and sometimes “Dr. Pangloss was right when he told me that all is for the best in this world” (Voltaire 9). The work is centered on the theories and their use in everyday life; the main character thinks about whether optimism is appropriate in different situations. Sometimes optimistic beliefs can change our lives as it can be traced in the adventures of Candide.

Lessons for modern living

The novel consists of numerous adventures experienced by the main character. It is natural that a young man doubts the world’s perspectives. He does not think that the world is perfect or, as Dr. Pangloss suggests, “…all was for the best in this world” (Voltaire 19). The relationship between people is one of the most intricate spheres of human life. We encounter difficulties in communication, socially and in the workplace. Is anyone capable to say that obstacles make our relationships better than they are in the current moment? How can one possess optimistic views without being confident in his or her strength to overcome those obstacles? People in the poem meet the main character, Candide, when he faces hardships of life; they help him and he helps them then. Their relationships cannot be considered simple or extremely peaceful, though they have a common goal of staying alive and are ready to collaborate to reach this definite goal.

Relationships between Candide and Dr. Pangloss are based on the teacher-student treatment, Cunegonde is a love interest of the main character, and other people encountered by Candide influence his life in some way (some of them want to kill or punish him, while others rescue him and heal his wounds. Some of the ideas presented in the novel seem to be rather pessimistic than realistic ones, suchlike “…nothing could be more just than to treat your enemies that way [kindly] for natural law teaches us to kill” (Voltaire 43); it helps us to realize that Voltaire introduced Candide as a young man who holds to optimistic views, though all his adventures make the readers believe that his fortune does not presuppose that the everything in the world is perfect.

Another theme that can be considered influential towards modern society is its culture and our interaction with our government and with the governments and cultures elsewhere on the planet. As you can see, the society of the modern world consists mostly of people who are representatives of different nations and ethnic groups. Candide appears to be among people of different social classes and ethnic origins. The 21st century looks the same as Candide’s environment where people have different goals but are ready to make common efforts to reach something more important.

The global community attempts to unite its efforts in order to fight world terrorism, global warming, dangerous pandemic viruses, starvation, and catastrophes. However, this union does not seem to last long as well as the problems can be solved and there would be no need to unite efforts. As far as there are some problems in the world (hardships in Candide’s life), there will exist unions between people who have little in common and who attempt to reach their own goals (people who will try to kill Candide or those healing his wounds).

One more lesson for living in modern society is that when one does not seem interesting to others anymore, he or she is repudiated. Cunegonde was a beautiful lady and the love interest of Candide but at the end of his adventures “At the bottom of his heart Candide had no desire to marry Cunegonde” (Voltaire 95). It means that she was interesting to him only when she was beautiful and he did not want to marry her when she was ugly. Modern society includes numerous examples when cooperation was impossible because one side (its conditions, properties, or value) was of little interest for another one (more powerful and independent). Cooperation is the action that takes place when both sides are concerned, while Candide was forced to marry Cunegonde because his word was a word of a gentleman.

Conclusion

The last phrase pronounced by Candide in the novel suggests that “…we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 99). This means that relationships between people, socially and in the workplace, culture and our interaction with our government and with the governments and cultures elsewhere on the planet have to be established and developed. Garden is an area which should be cultivated in order to get a good harvest, while relationships between people and unions of people should be developed to reach common goals. The philosophy of Voltaire’s Candide makes people think about their views and influence of circumstances on our life and beliefs.

Works Cited

Voltaire, Françoise. Candide. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.

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