Use of Satire in Voltaire’s Candide
Voltaire successfully uses satire as a means of conveying his opinions about life. In his novel, Candide, Voltaire satirizes the philosopher Liebnitz's philosophy that this is the best of all possible worlds. In the novel, the perpetually optimistic and naive character, Candide, travels around the world, having various experiences that prove, at least to the reader, that evil does exist.
In one particular passage, Voltaire uses explicit diction, exaggerated details and manipulated syntax in order to contrast the optimist's romantic view of battle with the horrible reality that is war. Voltaire's grossly exaggerated details give a somewhat comical description of an otherwise horrible event. "The cannons battered down about six thousand men", and then "the musket-fire removed...about nine or ten thousand" and finally, the bayonet killed "several thousand men or so." Voltaire's lackluster use of numbers in describing the casualties conveys the soldiers attitude toward human life; killing is more like a game or competition than a serious and immoral act. The soldiers dispose of men's lives as if they were worthless, for the purpose of settling a disagreement. After fighting, the two kings celebrate their respective victories "by having Te Deums sung." The kings have the audacity to celebrate after commanding their armies to kill innocent people. They congratulate themselves after the violent bloodbath even though neither side has won. Later, Candide passes through a town that has been destroyed by the Bulgars "in strict accordance with the laws of war." Voltaire suggests that the Bulgars burnt the town to the ground only because they were blindly following the laws of war. The soldiers obey their unfounded orders without giving any consideration to the well-being of innocent people.
Voltaire's diction attacks Leibnitz's philosophy that this is the best of all possible worlds; his words show a stark contrast between the optimist's view of...