Candide is a fictional satire of the optimism many philosophers had for life in general during the mid 1700’s written in response to Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man. Written by Voltaire, the literary alias of Francois-Marie Arouet, the satire covers religion, the wealthy, love, why people thought natural disasters occurred and especially, philosophy. The novel even goes on to make fun of the art of literature by giving ridiculous chapter headings. Just about everything Voltaire put into Candide is designed to question and satirize real world injustices. In effect Candide is the 18th century equivalent of a modern day sitcom (Shmoop).
Just as modern day sitcoms expose the injustices of the world in an overly exaggerated and humorous manner, so too does Candide. As stated earlier, the story lampoons the ideas exhibited in An Essay on Man by boiling them down to the phrase “Everything is for the best in this best of all worlds.” This phrase is repeated over and over in Voltaire’s novel by a philosopher named Pangloss in the face of tragedies which clearly prove him wrong. This is the satire that is most easily picked up upon in the novel. The disasters that Voltaire depicts seem to happen to everyone with equal intensities to the point where every soul in the story is miserable yet Pangloss stubbornly insists that all the disasters are, in the long term, for the best.
By mocking the philosophers who are attempt to blindly stay optimistic towards a world in which something always seems to go wrong at the least opportune moment, Voltaire appeals to the lower classes of society. These people had to deal with what they were given and survive from day to day. To them, at least the more intelligent ones, this philosophical idea that their misery was “for the best” must have seemed ludicrous. Philosophy such as this is tossed around in Candide so sarcastically that the reader cannot help but laugh. One example of the sarcasm on this subject is found in the scene where Candide is about to save an Anabaptist who had just fallen into a heavy seas. This Anabaptist was responsible for nursing both Candide and Dr. Pangloss, a philosopher back to health. He had fallen into the sea as a result of rescuing a falling sailor. When Candide got ready to go in after the Anabaptist but Dr. Pangloss stopped him telling him that the water was there put there for the purpose of drowning the Anabaptist. Scenes like this appear and play out so quickly the audience is left asking themselves, “Did that really just happen?” The scene is so ludicrous that nobody can take it seriously and therefore it is perceived as a joke. By creating such a silly way in which philosophy is used, Voltaire gives the audience a reason to laugh at would otherwise be thought of as a serious subject.
In addition to Philosophy, Voltaire also ridicules complacency throughout the entirety of his novel. Complacency is shown as a product of the philosophical ideas portrayed through Candide and in...