Rising Above a Corrupt World in Voltaire's Candide
Society can be, and is, corrupt in many different ways. Within our lives we are subject, but not limited to, corruptions within religion, corruptions of morals, and corruption within the government. Voltaire, the author of Candide, uses a naïve protagonist to illustrate his view of the world. Candide, surrounded by a corrupt society, and bombarded by various character defining events, is able to come to a higher understanding as to his philosophy of life.
Candide, by Voltaire, is a story about an optimistic young man who encounters various misfortunes on his search for an ideal world. Having unfortunately been kicked out of his home for the love of Lady Cunegonde, Candide suffers through many natural and unnatural catastrophes during his travels. However, holding on to his claim that all is for the best, Candide travels the world abroad with a totally naïve attitude. Constantly being reunited with many of his peers, Candide suffers the cruelty of the Bulgar army, a tempest, a shipwreck, an earthquake, and an auto da fe'.
Candide's optimism, stemming from his tutor Dr. Pangloss, keeps him totally determined to find his lost love, Lady Cunegonde, and an ideal world. However, Voltaire takes Candide around the world to discover that, contrary to the teachings of his distinguished tutor Dr. Pangloss, all is not always for the best.
In Candide, Voltaire uses general criticisms paired with specific examples to illustrate his idea concerning the contemporary corruption of the time. It is a "grinning critique of the 18th century's excesses and cruelties" (Kanfer 1). With Candide, Voltaire tried to show the world just how unjust and cruel it was. He specifically focused on the ignorance of the nobility's pride, corruption seen in religion, corruption of the government, corruption of morals, and the flaw in complacent optimism. Voltaire takes Candide through all of these forms of corruption to make him realize his ideals and his own personal philosophy on life.
Illustrations concerning the ignorance of nobility's pride are evident particularly in the Baron, the six dethroned kings, and Don Fernando. The fact that the Baron refuses to let Candide marry his sister because she has seventy-two generations of nobility in her blood is sheer arrogance. Before he knew Candide wanted to marry his sister "the baron...called him his brother and savior" (Voltaire 56). When the Baron realized Candide's intentions he called him an "insolent wretch" (56). Towards the end of the story, after Candide rescued the Baron from the galley slave ship, he still refused to let him marry his sister! This illustrates the true arrogance and ignorance of the Baron, and the point Voltaire is trying to make about the nobles' pride.
The passage concerning the dinner Candide shared with the six dethroned kings illustrates arrogance as well. The six kings, who were once very...