PR: Candide

While reading Candide by Voltaire I had many feelings towards the book. I thought some parts were funny, some parts were sad, some parts even made me think about philosophical questions, and some of the parts were disturbing.

In the beginning of the book, I didn’t really notice Voltaire’s use of satire. This was mainly due to not really having any background knowledge of the book, but for the most part I took everything I was reading to be extremely odd and nonsensical. Once I read past the first two chapters I realized that the book wasn’t (really) nonsensical, it is just very fast paced and full of satire. The first time I noticed this was when Candide joined the Bulgarian army and then while going for a walk was accused of trying to escape the army. After that he was given the choice of “running the gauntlet” or being executed. This was extremely confusing at first because it didn’t make any sense to me, and seemed really unbelievable. When I realized a lot of it was satire about different aspects of society, it started to make more sense to me.

Although a lot of it is comedic, it is also sad and disturbing at times. When the auto de fe happened in the beginning of the book, it changed the mood of the book a bit for me, and I realized not all of it is just comedy. When I realized this it raised the question for me, why was society so much more violent in Voltaire’s time?

All of these ideas were always brought back to the same idea, is everything for the best? Even when people are drowning, getting burned alive, hung, beat, robbed, the philosopher Pangloss is always arguing that everything is for the best. We see his counterpart later in the book, Martin, who believes nothing is for the best. What really stood out to me in the end is the quote, “Pangloss declared that he had always suffered horribly, but having asserted that everything was going wonderfully, he would continue to assert it, even though he did not believe it in the least”. This was shocking to me because throughout the whole book, Pangloss argued even to the death that everything is for the best, but at the end his view seems to change. This made me wonder if this is because of Voltaire’s philosophy on the world, and maybe he doesn’t think Martin or Pangloss’ philosophy is correct, but it is a bit of both, kind of like Pangloss believes in the end.

Overall I enjoyed Candide because most of the book was entertaining and surprisingly fun to read. Although I didn’t find it that funny, it was very comedic to read because of how obscure the events in the story were. Voltaire’s use of satire and philosophy tied the whole story together nicely and ending the book with the popular quote, “we must cultivate our garden” was very powerful.

Leave a Reply