Voltaire’s Views Of Religion And State Expressed In Candide

801 words - 3 pages

Voltaire’s Views of Religion and State Expressed In Candide   

Throughout Candide, Voltaire uses satire as a tool to reveal his controversial views regarding religion and State. He reveals the corruption, hypocrisy and immorality present in the way in which government and religion operated during his lifetime. Most particularly, he criticizes violent government behaviour (ie; war) and the behaviour of members of the aristocracy, who constituted the bulk of high ranking government and religious leaders.

Through satirical comments made in Candide, Voltaire exposes the corruption and greed rife in the government. He also reveals his displeasure with the manner in which the parliamentary system operated, expressing the ineffectiveness and ineptness of power hungry politicians who refused to agree or compromise.

“Let us work without arguing, that is the only way to make life endurable.” (Voltaire: 1947).

Voltaire also makes a point of his pacifism and his belief in the futility of bloodshed, criticizing the violent behaviour of governments who seek war as a solution to disputes.

The seven year war between the Prussians and the French is represented by the war between the ‘Bulgars’ and ‘Abrarians’ in Candide, and the first few chapters of the novel are dedicated to expressing Voltaire’s anger at the slaughter of the innocent.

“Total casualties might well amount to thirty thousand men or so. Candide, who as trembling like a philosopher, hid himself as best he could while this heroic butchery was going on” (Volatire: 1947).

By stating such a huge number of deaths in a matter-of-fact manner, Voltaire satirizes the government attitudes to the lives of innocent civilians. He also satirizes the idea of war being glamorous by juxtaposing the words ‘heroic’ and ‘butchery’. He then uses irony to great effect by describing both sides retiring to their camps after battle to claim victory and thank God.

Not only does Voltaire express his strong opposition to the operation and actions of the government, but the people involved in it. Although Voltaire was himself a member of the aristocracy, he attacks aristocratic pride and arrogance, particularly the idea of taking pride in one’s lineage.

The ‘Baron of Westphalia’, for example, refuses to allow his daughter, Cunegonde, to marry a suitor because he has only seventy-one quarterlings, a type of genealogical division. This would correspond to nearly 2000 years of aristocratic background, certainly an obscene lineage. Cunegonde herself had seventy-two quarterlings, amounting to a 1.4%...

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