Symbolism In Candide

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Voltaire’s magnum opus, Candide: All for the Best, also simply known as Candide, utilises the techniques of satire, imagery, symbolism and characterisation to convey some of the perils of the Age of Enlightenment through the thematic exploration of religion, war, optimism and philosophical speculation. Voltaire positions the reader to recognise the insincerity incumbent in organised religion as well as the futility of war at that time. He also positions the reader to comprehend the folly of optimism, and the uselessness of philosophical speculation.
Voltaire explores the notion of the insincerity of organised religion during the Age of Enlightenment – a transition, among many others, from a religious based worldview to one based on science
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Voltaire expresses how Leibnizian optimism considers that the wickedness in the world is “… but the shadows on a beautiful picture,” but illustrates in Candide that, “… the shadows are horrible plots.” Notably, Pangloss is ravaged by syphilis, nearly hanged, dissected, and imprisoned, yet still remains a firm believer in optimism, which is defined in the novella as, “… the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong.” In addition, Pangloss repeatedly produces illogical arguments to support his preconceived perceptions and distorts the connections between cause and effect. For instance, when edifying Candide, he claims that “the nose has been formed to bear spectacles,” and that “legs are visibly designed for stockings.” This positions the reader to recognise Pangloss’s, and hence Leibniz’s, irrational arguments for his philosophical optimism, thereby eliciting feelings of amusement from the reader. Voltaire too repeatedly positions the reader to comprehend the impractical and even destructive impact of philosophical speculation on the condition of his characters through the indirect characterisation of Pangloss. The philosopher’s speech and actions indicate how idle speculation prevents the characters from making realistic assessments of the world around them, and from taking pragmatic action to resolve various inimical situations. This is shown when he forestalls Candide from saving Jacques, who fell overboard, “by demonstrat[ing] to him [philosophically] that the Bay of Lisbon had been made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned.” Moreover, when Candide is trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building and begs for “… a little wine and oil,” Pangloss ignores his request and instead proceeds to speculate about the causes of the

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