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Candide by Voltaire Essay

1) What is the relationship between Candide’s adventures and Pangloss’s teachings?

In Candide, we see lives filled with struggles and tragedy. Although Candide witnessed and fell victim to worldly evils of cruelty and suffering, he maintained his optimistic views through much of the novel. Candide picked up this idea of optimism through Pangloss’s teachings. Although he did not see any good reasons to disbelieve Pangloss’s teachings while living in the Baron’s castle, once in the outside world, Candide experiences many tragic events that make him, and the reader, question the philosophy of optimism. Candide’s adventures, starting when he is kicked out of the Barons castle, clearly represented an imperfect world, full of atrocities that contradicted Pangloss’s teachings.

The events that break apart Pangloss’s teachings begin almost immediately when Candide is thrown in the streets to live on his own. He runs into recruiting officers of the King of Bulgars. They have him toast to the health of their king, but then beat Candide severely and put irons on his legs. Luckily though, the king comes by and tells them to spare Candide since he is innocent. Soon after that, Candide witnesses an awful, bloody battle between two armies. This horrible spectacle shows us how hateful and violent people are in this world. Later, he finds a beggar who turns out to be Pangloss. Pangloss shares some of the horrible things he had been put through and that Candide’s one and only love had been raped and her entire family had been murdered when the Baron’s castle had been taken over.

Once with Pangloss, he has many new adventures. While out at sea with Pangloss and Jacques, a violent storm occurred and destroyed their ship. Many innocent passengers are killed including Jacques, who died saving a sailor. The innocent passengers’ deaths disprove Pangloss’ theory since it appeared the bad that came out of the shipwreck led to nothing good for them; instead, only brought them to their deaths. When the sailor, Pangloss, and Candide get into Lisbon, an earthquake destroys most of the city.

A tidal wave also crushes ships in the port. In an effort to prevent another earthquake, wise men take ridiculous actions against the slightest wrongdoing. Candide and Pangloss end up getting arrested. Pangloss is hanged and Candide is beaten badly. The ridiculous actions taken place prove to be futile when another earthquake erupts the next day. All of the bad that came from the first earthquake provided no good. Pangloss had been hung for no reason and Jacques, a good man, had died from the storm out at sea. The reader is left wondering how these horrible events could result in a greater good.

Candide finds that God might have spared one place on earth, El Dorado. He finds this seemingly perfect city, yet does not want to stay because is still in love with Cunegonde. The king gives him and Cacambo a few sheep and some gold. This portion of the story brings a little light, yet the whole world cannot be like El Dorado, and people who do live in perfect worlds cannot even appreciate it because they have nothing to compare the high points against. Since life is always perfect, they live in lethargic boredom and cannot truly appreciate how well off they truly are. We also see times of happiness and good fortune that restore Candide’s faith in optimism throughout the book. Such periods include when we find Pangloss survived, and the points in the book when Candide and Cunegonde get to be together, even for short amounts of time.

Towards the end of the story, Candide begins to question Pangloss’ philosophy more and more. Although we find events that support optimism, we find more counterexamples. Although Pangloss and the Barons son are found alive, they tell Candide their escapes from death, and the tortures they had been put through afterwards. Soon after they free Pangloss and the Baron’s son from slavery, the men go and find Cunegonde, the woman Candide had been searching to live with and love for his entire life. When they do find her, she is extremely ugly and Candide no longer wants to marry her. Although he is no longer attracted to her, he is a man of his word and feels he must do his duty to take care of her and love her. Now, he is stuck with a woman he no longer lusts over. Candide has finally found what he had been sacrificing for all of his life to find, yet is not satisfied with what he has acquired for his hard work.

Throughout the entire story of Candide, we are bombarded with horrendous events that happened to an individual to disprove Pangloss’s teachings. Candide’s adventures encountered such atrocities as murder, rape, slavery, and prostitution. The bad events that occur in Candide, help show that the world is not perfect, and that not everything happens for the greater good in the end. Candide’s adventures, great in number, show us how bad others lives turned out as well as their friends and families lives were hurt as well, such as the old woman. In the end, Candide finally realizes that optimism is not a flawless philosophy, and that the idea of working hard and enjoying life is better than waiting around for the good you think will happen. Candide’s adventures helped to contradict optimism and ultimately changed Candide’s beliefs from optimism to a realization of reality. Candide begins to live a simple life, working hard to avoid boredom, vice, and poverty.

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