Maximilianus Hoffman Brainerd
20 February 2018
Optimism Only Finds Disappointment
Human nature has long been subject to dissection and interpretation by some of the most renown scholars and philosophers to walk this planet Earth. We as human beings have always been in a constant struggle to understand ourselves. Many believe the endeavor to understand human nature isn’t worthwhile, and rather rely on the ideology that everything is planned or not without reason, while others have immersed themselves in the study of this subject. Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire and his philosophies paint a picture of human indecency and woe. While it could be said that everything happens for a reason, Voltaire might have us believe that optimism only leads to chaos, affliction and strife. In Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism the protagonist and his compatriots experience some, if not all, of the worst tragedies mankind has wrought upon itself. Yet Candide never loses the hope that his teacher Pangloss was right in assuming that, “Since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end.” (Voltaire 521). Candide, or Optimism illustrates the cruelty of humankind while continuously proving that optimism only leads to disappointment, that humankind will always find a way to morally justify its actions, and that the only way to be truly happy in life is to focus on the betterment of one’s self.
Although it seems Voltaire had a pessimistic outlook in regards to most of humankind, Ira Wade says that Candide is, “In its inner substance not wholly optimistic, or pessimistic, or skeptical or cynical, but it is all of these things at the same time.” This idea resonates with many of the situations that are portrayed in this story, and Voltaire illuminates the faults that are attached to each of these outlooks. The protagonist Candide is obsessed with the teachings of his tutor Pangloss, and remains optimistic in life regardless of the terrible situations that constantly befall him and his loved ones. While constantly assuming that every end is the best end, Candide is continually afflicted by tragedy, and the kindness he does witness is almost always immediately undone by his next circumstance. Where Ira Wade might be correct in assuming that Candide, or Optimism is optimistic, pessimistic, skeptical and cynical all at the same time; it could be interpreted that optimism is punished while the rest are rewarded. While Candide remains optimistic, almost all of the people he encounters and travels with prove to be pessimistic, skeptical or cynical. These outlooks are arguably most prevalent among Candide’s traveling partner Cacambo, as he assumes that no one is truly happy with their lives, and is continuously proven to be correct.
No evidence is more important in establishing that optimism only leads to disappointment, than Candide’s eternal struggle to find his true love Cunegonde. Regardless of his afflictions...