Candide is a satire written by Voltaire that tells the story of Candide and his journey. The author does this by use of exaggeration in order to show Candide’s point of view. Throughout the story, the reader is invited to be a part of Candide’s change and develop as the protagonist to eventually reach internal happiness and destiny. Candide starts out as an innocent boy and then through a great deal of suffering, he ends up being a good man. After he is banished from his home for being in love with Cunegonde, he sets out on a series of adventures, some positive, some negative, and some just really sad, but all are a part of him gaining maturity.
After Candide’s first taste of what true reality is like, one of the changes he endures is a new found sense of optimism, where being the most optimistic about every situation isn’t how he operates anymore, but he still continues to hold on to a part of his innocence and optimism that is the reason he is who he is. The phrase, Everything is for the best was taught to him by his teacher Pangloss. He adopts this ideology without thinking at first but questions it along the way. One of the times this is put to test is when the kind man who helped save his life is thrown overboard, this was a hard idea for Candide to grasp how something so terrible happened to such a good person. The old woman is a big part in helping Candide change into a better man and she makes it her mission to help him do that, My last post was as servant to the Jew don Issachar; he attached me to your service, my lovely one; and I attached myself to your destiny, till I have become more concerned with your fate than with my own (Voltaire 26). One of the ways Candide gained optimism, was through the old woman’s story and her dreadful experiences. I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?(Voltaire 25). She explains the irony in her life and how even though she has been through a lot, she has lived a life full of experiences and she is called to help Candide change his ways of living an unexperienced life and gain some optimism and appreciation. The last piece of advice she gives him is, Give yourself some fun; require each passenger to tell you their life story; and if you find a single one who has not repeatedly cursed their life, who has not said to themselves over and over again that they are the most unhappy person in the world, throw me in the sea headfirst (Voltaire 26). She is explaining how nobody can live a fulfilled life without going through struggles and it is impossible to be happy during your whole existence. The important lesson Candide gains from the Old Woman is that even through all of her heartache and struggles, she still finds life worth living and has a love of life and so should Candide.
Another way that Candide changes throughout the story is he becomes a realist. He realizes that bad things have to happen in order for good things to come along; and whether what is happening is good or bad, you have to ride the wave through it and come out the other side. Candide first arrives to this idea when he meets the slave. My dear child, bless your fetishes, worship them as long as you live, and they will ensure you live happily; you have the honor to be a slave to our lords the whites, and thereby you have made your father and mother wealthy! (Voltaire 43). After hearing the slave, Candide comes to the realization that, it’s the madness that leads one to maintain that all is well when one’s own life is dreadful (Voltaire 43). He realizes that something bad doesn’t have to happen in order for something good to happen in life, but you have to take what you are given and appreciate it and use it to the best of your ability. Candide realizes that happiness doesn’t just arrive on your doorstep, you have to actively work for it and sometimes that means going through pain and suffering. Candide also gains a new appreciation for the happinesses in his life, big or small because he knows that he deserves what he has because he has worked for it and fought for what he wants and needs. Through his new ideology, he is able to find true happiness in owning a farm with his friends, he doesn’t live in the biggest house or have the most money but he is happy and he realizes that that is all that matters to him.
Love is a driving theme in the story, Candide’s love for Cunegonde is the reason he set out on these adventures. Candide first falls in love with her because of her beauty and looks them being young and innocent. Cunegonde let fall her handkerchief, Candide picked it up, she took him innocently by the hand, the youth as innocently kissed the young lady’s hand with particular vivacity, sensibility, and grace; their lips met, their eyes sparkled, their knees trembled, their hands strayed (Voltaire 3). This passage seems as if it is out of a fairytale which shows how naive and twisted Candide’s idea of what true love is. As we learn more about Candide and see him interact with other people, especially women, it is prevalent that women are meant for men’s desire.Through abandoning the paradise of El Dorado, committing multiple murders, and barely avoiding capture and execution he falls further and further away from being in love. He started out doing all of this in hopes to one day marry her, but what he does along the way proves the opposite of a true, romantic love and ultimately changes him and makes him realize that he is no longer in love with her because he realizes that love isn’t all you need in order to be fulfilled in life and there is more to life than love. When he gets back from his excursions, he sees that she is no longer the young and beautiful woman he first fell in love with, but decides to marry her anyway. As Candide’s adventures come to an end, although he has learned a lot and grown a lot as an individual, it is not a linear ending where he becomes a completely new person. Candide is able to take responsibility for his own life and actions and no longer blame anyone for his troubles, he finds peace within himself and living on the farm with all of his friends but he becomes unaware of the world outside of him and all the hurt and death that is happening which is very selfish.
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