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The (Failed) Pursuit Of Happiness Essay

1155 words - 5 pages

Candide by French novelist Voltaire, a master of literary satire, portrays a young man by the name of Candide who goes from a lavish, sheltered lifestyle to the real world and experiences all the hardships life has to offer. Through the story, the title character tries to acquire money and get back to his girl because he believes that is the key to his eternal happiness. He’s searching for what could make him happy but nothing seems to be the answer. Candide has many important themes such as the folly of optimism, the uselessness of philosophical speculation, and the hypocritical nature of religions. While each theme helps develop the plotline and no one is more important than the others, the principal reoccurring theme I observed was the human desire to seek and obtain happiness and how often that fails catastrophically.
At the beginning of the story, Candide lives in “the most beautiful and agreeable of all possible castles” (17) with baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, the baroness, their son, and their daughter, “Cunegonde, aged seventeen, . . . rosy-cheeked, fresh, plump, and alluring” (15). His tutor there, Pangloss, preaches the philosophy of optimism and that everything happens for a reason. Life at the castle is easy. They have plenty of servants and food all year round, but Candide wasn’t quite happy. Something was missing from his life and that thing was Lady Cunegonde, “for he found Lady Cunegonde extremely beautiful, although he was never bold enough to tell her so” (16). Candide is infatuated with the fair Cunegonde and believes it be one of the world’s greatest fortunes to get to see her every day. However, the object of his affections is removed from his reach when he tries to make a move but is caught by the baron. The barn “drove Candide from the castle with vigorous kicks in the backside” (17) for trying to get with his daughter when he has less than 72 generations of nobility on his family tree. This failed mad grab at love sends Candide onto a long quest to find a home, get his life back together, and achieve true happiness.
Later in the novel, Candide and his valet Cacumbo stumble upon Eldorado, the legendary city of gold. After spending a carefree month living in the “impossible to describe” (63) palace of the king, they decide it best to leave with as much money as they can and try their fortunes, and to find Cunegonde, elsewhere. Sadly, their luck seems to run out as soon as they leave the city. “On the second day, two of their sheep [laden with gold and precious stones] sank in a bog and were swallowed up with their loads; two more sheep died of fatigue a few days later; then seven or eight of them perished from hunger in the desert; still others fell off cliffs” (67). Out of the twenty sheep they left with, only two, each carrying a considerable amount of money, survive the hundred day journey to Surinam. Along the way Candide appears to lose the momentary joy associated with having money and, after seeing it dwindle away,...

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