Depths of Irony in “Candide”: Voltaire’s Critical Narrative

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The revolution era consisted of violent change in political order, government, social order. Candide by Voltaire was able to express a variety of ideas and popular themes during this era. Voltaire used humor and satire to make statements on controversial topics while maintaining historical relevance.

The main character in Voltaire's book is named Candide. He is the nephew of a German baron and grew up in the baron's castle located in Westphalia. Under the teachings of his scholar Pangloss, Candide lives life under the motto that he lives in the best of all possible worlds. Pangloss teaches that everything in life happens for a reason and has a very optimistic outlook. Candide falls in love with the baron's young daughter, Cunegonde. The baron catches the two kissing and ejects Candide from the castle. Candide is soon forced into the army of the Bulgars. Pangloss dies and during Candide's journey he comes across Martin, another philosopher whose teachings are very pessimistic compared to the late Pangloss. Candide's eyes open to reality. These opposite views revealed to Candide that there is more to this world then what Pangloss spoke of. His adventures are encouraged by his desire to find his beloved Cunegonde again. Throughout his travels he meets her off and on but always ended up losing her again. Throughout Candide's journey he meets many individuals and learns about their experiences that enriches Candide about other worlds. Voltaire's writing of Candide and his journey integrated historical relevance of the enlightenment while creating an entertaining story for the reader.

Politics, religion, philosophical optimism and wealth were just some of the controversial topics during the enlightenment era. Throughout Voltaire's Candide, he used tactics of humor and satire to deliver criticizing statements of these topics. For example, on page 40, And since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round. Therefore, those who have affirmed that all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best. Here, Pangloss uses logical connectives like therefore to link statements that have no logical relationship and reasonings that make no sense. Candide meets many individuals who have suffered and witnessed the suffering of many. Voltaire highlighting the pain shared by many emphasizes the ignorance and lack of sympathy of people with higher power. On page 44, dying rape victims are described as Young girls who had been disemboweled after they had satisfied the natural needs of various heroes, heaved their last sighs. Voltaire labels rapists as heroes and the act of being raped as a natural need. These quotes use satire to ridicule the idiocies of philosophical practices; and exposed the lack of moral rules and rights exerted during the age of the enlightenment.

During the time of the author, Voltaire experienced the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment which spread ideas involving traditional authority, natural rights, rational change, freedom, knowledge, experience and the pursuit of happiness. These different topics and other historical events were acknowledged throughout the text of Candide. Candide continuously referred to the teachings of Pangloss for direction and authority. Before the enlightenment traditional authority was surrounded by philosophical teachings. On page 71 Candide comments And what will the Journal de Trevoux say?. This journal was a Jesuit periodical that often-published articles critical of the philosophers of the enlightenment. On page 45 the author references to the protestant reformation, A man who had never been baptized, a good Anabaptist, During that time Anabaptists were protestants who opposed infant baptism. On page 64 Voltaire refers to suicide, But I have seen only 12 who voluntarily brought an end to their suffering... Robek. Robek (1672-1739), wrote a book justifying suicide and drowned himself. The morality of suicide was often debated during the Enlightenment. On page 89, A parish priest came and sweetly asked for a note payable to the bearer in the next world which referred to the billet de confession which was a theological oath that the clergy would demand a dying person to sign before performing the last rites.

In the beginning of Candide's journey, he is naive but throughout his adventure to find happiness, his candor allows him to receive an education through his experiences. As Candide learns so does the reader. Voltaire was able to write a story while including historical relevance of his time period which supplemented the readers understanding. Candide also including satire and humor attached an entertaining aspect to the reading while getting Voltaire's opinion on controversial topics during that time period.

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Depths of Irony in "Candide": Voltaire's Critical Narrative. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved September 29, 2023 , from

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