I am not too familiar with the events that occurred in this book. It is set back in the times of kings and queens, barons, lords and other titles. The author, Voltaire, who was born Francios-Marie Arouet, was very critical and suspicious of government and officials. He used his writing talens to make fun of them or criticize abuses of the time. In the middle of the 18th century, Voltaire turned against the popular philosophy of “optimism” because of a tragic earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal, which killed 30,000 people and did millions of dollars in damage. He wrote Candide to show that proponents of optimism were, well – crazy!
The first thing that happens in this book is that the main character, Candide, a good natured young man, gets kicked out of his home. His home happens to be the castle of a Baron who has a 17-year old daughter named Cunegonde. Candide is seen by the baron kissing the hand of Cunegonde. So, what’s the big deal about that? She was the one who started it. And it was just her hand, all right? But for some reason, this really upset the Baron and out Candide went.
He is picked up by Bulgarian soldiers and made part of their army, but when he goes out for a walk one day, they think is going AWOL. He is then given a choice of taking 12 bullets to the dome or being whipped 4,000 times! Nice choice! By now I’m thinking not much is happening for the good. But not Candide. He just doesn’t understand. He takes the whipping.
Over and over again Candide tries to do his best and tragedies happen to him. The way I feel about Candide is that he is undecided and confused about what is going around him and what is happening to him. Some people here and there help him and others capture him and torture him. He is also scared of being out alone with no one there for him until he runs into his old Master of Philosophy, Dr. Pangloss. The doc tells him of dreadful things that happened at the castle and the condition everyone was in.The Baron and his entire family, including his beloved Cunegonde are all dead. Candide faints on the spot when he hears of that and that shows that he is not very emotionally strong. He can’t deal with the pain of life very well. But he and his philosopher believe in the cause and effect principle. They believe god has caused something to happen to have a particular effect. They believe whatever happens is best for the world, and that is why I feel that Candide is just a wandering soul who doesn’t know what he wants out of life. Personally I feel that he should be trying to do something and fight back.
The action in this book is of the gory type. It talks about how Candide has to walk through a field of dead men’s brain, and limbs scattered all over. I don’t mind this at all, it just shows that Voltaire wants us to have a strong image of what was going on.
The “cause and effect” philosophy is shown to have some truth to it because everyone dear to Candide (especially Cunegonde and Dr. Pangloss) who “die” come back into his life. Also, in finding Eldorado, Candide discovers a place that truly lives up to the philosophy of optimism. Unfortunately, he cannot stay there because he feels his life is not worth living without Cunegonde, his beloved. I feel that it was a good choice that Candide left this so-called “utopia” of Eldorado, because such a place, if it ever did really exist, could not last. But his love for Cunegonde could.
The way this story is set up is to show all the evil things that happen in the world, and the point of that is to make fun of the philosophy of optimism. In “Candide” they are all optimistic and believe that everything happens for the good, which is totally wrong. The point of the book is to show you how unrealistic optimism is. There is much evil in this world and there always will be. There is no such thing as a Utopia, and not all things happen for the better.
“Candide” also relates to “Young Goodman Brown.” There is evil in this world and everyone has it in them. All things can’t happen for the better of the world. If that were so then that would create a utopia, which I don’t believe is possible.
Overall I like the story, mainly because of the theme and all the action. Also, it totally makes fun of one of the main characters, who is a philosopher. He is the one who teaches and preaches to everyone that all things happen for a good cause, and many believe the same. That is one thing that makes this story hard to read. If you don’t agree with what the characters are doing and things that happen it makes you want to just throw the book away. But when I realized that it was making fun of Dr. Pangloss, the philosopher, I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading the book more from that point on than I did before.
Another character that I would like to respond about is that of Candide’s love Cunegonde. She was a well-rounded lady that cared for people, and helped out Candide when he needed it the most. She was claimed dead by Dr. Pangloss, but then was found alive in a village that luckily Candide was in at the same time as she was. She didn’t seem to say much about the philosophy of everything happening for the best and that is what made me like her more than any other character. She was truly a good person, even though she turned ugly from all the ordeals she suffered.
My personal view of optimism is that it is very unrealistic. I see the glass of water as being half empty, but I do always HOPE for the best. I just don’t expect it. I believe that there is evil lurking everywhere and you have to be on your guard against it at all times. Candide believed the exact opposite – and look what happened to him.