In schools, classic works of literature can be perceived by students as boring, long, and a waste of time to read. However, Voltaire’s parody-like novella, Candide, or Optimism defies literary stereotypes as its satiric themes, dramatic plot, and na??ve protagonist unite to tell a story in a way no other works of the time did. These aspects of Candide both engage the reader and hold the power to tell meaningful messages about life. Voltaire wrote the philosophical comedy to relay the message that through all the terrible things in life, there is always something to be optimistic about, and also that nothing interesting can start in one’s comfort zone. Candide is a unique, entertaining, and thought-provoking work that everyone needs to read at least once in their lives.
Candide, the protagonist of Voltaire’s story, gains the reader’s sympathy and attention with his innocent and na??ve outlook on life. At the beginning of the story, Candide had a seemingly perfect life: he was comfortable, well-off, and uneasiness was not in his vocabulary. However, this life was not the definition of perfection to Candide. He was hungry for the thrill of taking risks and going on adventures, seeing the world outside of his box of perfection in Westphalia. This longing resulted in a quick-moving, intense series of tragic experiences for Candide, including witnessing the hanging of his own tutor, fires, and an encounter with a two-limbed slave. Yet, Candide’s flame of optimism still burned. Candide, originally appearing to be a simple, chronological story, contains hidden, complex aspects that make it a very impressive creation.
The unusual way Voltaire wrote Candide provides readers with a refreshing escape from other works of literature as well as from the seriousness of real life. The humorous yet fascinating line, a fellow being with two legs, no feathers and a soul (p 9) pessimistically downplays the importance of human existence, while also sending a positive message that humans hold the power to identify with each other, differences aside. Candide uses this mindset to feed his optimism: through his unfortunate circumstances, he can always relate to someone, even if the only thing they in common is their lack of feathers.
Voltaire’s message and the philosophical arguments in his novella have the ability to fascinate the reader as they inspire and create depth to the fast-paced, bluntly-told plot. An abstract conversation between Candide and Pangloss questions the nature of human beings, ?Do you think,’ said Candide, ?that men have always massacred one another, as they do today? That they have always been cheats, traitors, ingrates’ (p 59). Candide’s thoughts make the reader reflect about the free will of manwhether there exists a choice to be evil, or if beings are all naturally born immoral. These philosophical aspects of Candide perfectly balance the fast-paced plot and humorous aspects of the story, The Baroness, who weighed approximately three hundred and fifty pounds, and consequently basked in very great esteem (p 3). This line accurately represents Voltaire’s humor and its effect on his audience, as it successfully draws in the reader at the beginning of the story. This is just one other example of how Candide is such an impressive work as it can include philosophical themes in such a rapid-paced story.
Though it keeps the reader interested, the speed at which Voltaire wrote Candide could be perceived negatively. Due to the speediness of the plot from one disaster to the next, Voltaire left out many of the characters’ reactions to the things that happened to them. This, with the combination of the unrealistic experiences Voltaire throws at the protagonist, may create a disconnect between the reader and the characters in the book. However, the satiric jokes as well as the philosophical conversations included in Candide easily out rules the absurdness of the plot.
The world needed Candide. Stress and loss of hope are real, ever-present things in the world, and Voltaire’s novella provides both a temporary and lasting relief from them. His humor and use of hyperboles let the readers laugh away their sorrows, and the protagonist’s eternal happiness and optimism could be capable of influencing them to change their unhealthy, pessimistic mindsets. This story should be on everyone’s bookshelves, as its ability to entertain and change readers’ perceptions of the world is nothing short of captivating. In conclusion, Voltaire created the work of literature missing from the world, a satiric comedy with a message to stay optimistic: through the downs of life, humans really do live in the best of all possible worlds.
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