The Challenges Of Optimism In Voltaire's Candide

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The book Candide is a satire written by in the 1700s. In this novel the author, Voltaire, is satirizing enlightenment philosophers who believe that everything is good in the world, since a good God created the world. Throughout the Novel the protagonist, Candide, is faced with many challenges that work to shape his own ideology. Initially Candide is an optimistic, inexperienced and uneducated young boy but as he struggles, and experiences the worst in the world, it works against his optimism, highlighting Voltaire’s belief that philosophical optimism is foolish and unjustified.
Candide was born into a simple and well off lifestyle. He is a naïve character who cannot form philosophical reasoning on his own. His initial outlook on life was given
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“But he was so much imposed upon by the Jews that he had nothing left except his small farm; his wife became more ugly every day, more peevish and unsupportable” (p. 89). Cunegonde has grown ugly with age, and seeing her shocks Candide. He realizes that he does not love her because she is ugly and only marries her because he feels pressured to keep his promise. This is ironic because Candide lives his whole life, gets kicked out of the castle, travels across the world, for Cunegonde and now that he has her he could care less. After marrying Cunegonde, the majority of the characters from the novel all decided to live together and talk about philosophy, which evidently boarded everyone. “But surely, Reverend Father,’ Said Candide, ‘her is a dreadful amount of evil in the world’ (p. 92). No longer does Candide or Pangloss believe that all is good in the world. He has accomplished his life long dream of marrying Cunegonde, traveled the world, and met lots of people, only to cause him to loose his optimism towards humanity. Finally Candide found something to make him happy. After meeting a farmer who believes that getting involved in philosophy and politics can only end in despair, Candide decides to make his own garden. Candide believes that the farmers experience in life is preferable over the kings. In the garden Candide and his friends find life tolerable from constant work. The characters now constantly working have no time for philosophy, and they withdraw from the evils of humanity and life becomes bearable. The novel ends when Pangloss begins to explain that all the things that happened in Candide’s life were just a chain of events that needed to happen to lead him to the present moment. “That is well said,’ replied Candide, ‘but we must cultivate our garden” (p. 94). By leaving behind Pangloss’ lifestyle and taking up the farmers Candid is able to finally feel

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