Essay Comparing Candide and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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Comparing Voltaire's Candide and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Voltaire's Candide and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein are classics of western literature, in large part, because they both speak about the situation of being human. However, they are also important because they are both representative of the respective cultural movements during which they were written - the Enlightenment and the Romantic Era. As a result of this inheritance, they have different tones and messages, just as the Enlightenment and Romanticism had different tones and messages. But, it is not enough to merely say that they are "different" because they are linked. The intellectual movement from which Frankenstein emerged had its origins in the intellectual
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Candide was very much a product of the Enlightenment. The tone of the work is one of optimism maintained despite frequent misfortune and continuous suffering. The optimism can exist because, in the context of the Enlightenment, the suffering represents the opportunity for human progress through the application of reason. If the miserable people of the middle ages lived for the promise of relief of suffering in the afterlife, the miserable people in the Enlightenment lived for promise of a better life through progress resulting from the application of reason to the human situation. Voltaire's message was this optimism (for that is the translation of the title of the work), but he made his point by satirically making fun of many of the elements of the Enlightenment, itself, including this philosophical optimism. He could do this, and laughingly get away with it, because the optimism he was poking fun at is the abuse of the Enlightenment as a popular movement. While the protagonist, Candide, blindly accepts the enlightened teachings of the supposed voice of reason, Pangloss, he accomplishes nothing. Misfortune after misfortune befall the seemingly helpless boy until he begins to reason for himself and to doubt that he truly does exist in "the best of all possible worlds". The value of the Enlightenment is not blind faith that all will turn out for the best, for that mindset is a vestige of the middle

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