Candide, By Voltaire Essay

1413 words - 6 pages

“Candide” by Voltaire is a novel that captures the tumultuous life of Candide, the simple, illegitimate son of the baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh’s sister. Living in the castle in Westphalia, Candide’s realm of knowledge encompasses the ideas presented to him by Pangloss, his tutor, who believes that the world they inhabit is the “best of all possible worlds.” (Voltaire 15) Candide carries the optimism of Pangloss’ belief with him as he is banished from his castle and enters an uncharted terrain. In the unfamiliar world of hardship, suffering and poverty, he discovers the inaccuracy of the many ideas Pangloss presented to him. Through the texts “Candide” by Voltaire, “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the validity of Pangloss’ philosophy can be tested.
Pangloss’ view of the world refers to Leibnez’s theory , which attempts to explain the existence of evil in the simultaneous presence of God. According to him, God, being omniscient and omnipotent, possesses the ability to see all the possible worlds. He chooses the best of these worlds for us to live in, therefore, all the evil in the world is essentially not evil at all; it was foreseen, understood, and thus, created by God. However if this theory were true, then the world would be pre-determined and humans would have no free will. On the other hand, the story told by the Bible describes Adam and Eve as people who were punished for having free will and eating the apple. If the world were indeed pre-determined by God, then Eve eating the apple from the tree of knowledge would be the pre-determined, too. Since God did not intend for Eve to consume the apple, her action was one of free will. Pangloss’ view is considered heretic because his view challenges the occurrence of original sin, on which Christianity’s explanation of the existence of humankind is based.
The idea Pangloss advocates plunks both him and Candide in trouble. On the ship, short of an eye and an ear, and dying from syphilis, Pangloss suggests that individual misfortunes generate greater good. Soon after, the ship is wrecked and the earthquake hits, leaving half the members on-board the ship dead and the other half seriously injured. After the earthquake in Lisbon, Pangloss’ heretical idea infuriates the officer of the Inquisition and leads to both Pangloss and Candide being “bound and taken away, one for having spoken, and the other for having listened with an air of approval” (Voltaire 28). Having seen Jacques, the kind Anabaptist, drown, Pangloss hanged, and heard of Cunegonde being raped and killed, Candide begins disbelieving Pangloss’ belief. The amount of individual misery, pain and misfortune Candide’s acquaintances had encountered did not generate a world that was better; earthquakes still killed people, wars still enraged and women were still raped and soiled. The possibility that the world they lived in was the best of all possible worlds, seemed even more and more improbable...

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